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PRESENTED BY 

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E PRESENTED BY I 
B »d MRS. ISAAC R. HIT, 



WASHINGTON. D. C. 

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PRESE#£D BY 
JBDCF ?«! K*>S. ISAAC R. HUT, 





AT has long been the desire of many of Mr. Flet- 
cher's friends, to see a more full and complete ac- 
count of that extraordinary man, than any that had 
appeared. Mr. Wesley's Narrative of his Life was 
drawn up in great haste, and in the midst of so many 
important labours and concerns of another kind, that 
it is not at all surprising it should contain some small 
mistakes, and, in other respects, should be imperfect. 
Mrs. Fletcher never intended to write his life, but 
only to give an account of his death, with a few par- 
ticulars of his character. The Rev, Mr. Gilpin's 
Biographical Notes, annexed to his translation of Mr. 
Fletcher's Portrait of Saint Paul, are very excellent, 
and very accurate, as far as they go. But neither did 
Mr. Gilpin intend to write his Life, but simply to give 
some more traits of his character, and add a few 
anecdotes concerning him, which had been omitted 
by Mr. Wesley and Mrs. Fletcher. Add to this, that 
Mr. Gilpin's Notes are scattered through that work 
without any order : and however useful, as detached 
pieces, do not, in any respect, furnish the reader with 
a regular and connected history of that great and 
good man, In consideration of these things, it has 



»iv » . * * PREFACE, 

11 .• ■ ' t%% ' I \ I 

been judged, by his friends, to be a debt due to hi? 
memory, and to the Christian world, to compile from 
the whole, and from such other documents as might 
be collected, such an authentic and properly arranged 
Narrative of his Life and Death, as might be at once 
clear and sufficiently full, comprising every article of 
importance. Mrs. Fletcher, knowing that I had been 
particularly intimate with Mr. Fletcher from the year 
1768, till his death, and that we had been in the con- 
stant habit of corresponding, earnestly desired I 
would undertake this w ork. And our General Con- 
ference, held at Leeds in the year 1801, having joined 
with her in the same request, 1 have, at length, com- 
plied, and am not without hope, that the interests of 
pure and vital Christianity will be promoted by it. 
This Narrative includes the whole of what is material 
in the fore-mentioned accounts, digested in regular 
order, together with much new matter, taken chiefly 
from Mr. Fletcher's own letters to myself, and some 
other friends, especially to the Rev. Mr. Perronet, 
late of Shoreham, and some members of his family. 
1 have found it to be peculiarly useful to myself to be 
employed about this work: and I pray God that 
every reader may obtain similar, and even greater 
benefit from it, and be induced to follow him as fully 
as he followed Christ, 

JOSEPH BENSON. 

London, 
October 25, 1801, 

Girt 

Judge and Nlrs.Isaac R.HItt 
July 6,1331 



PREFACE 



TO 

THE SECOND EDITION. 
— — 

The Editor is aware that he must chiefly ascribe 
it to the high esteem entertained by the public in 
general, and by the members of the Methodist 
Societies in particular, for the character of the late 
Rev. Mr. Fletcher, and the great veneration in which 
his memory is held by them, that the former impres- 
sion of this work has had so rapid a sale, and that a 
second edition is so soon called for. He is, however, 
happy to find, by the testimonies he has received from 
different quarters, that the manner in which he has 
been enabled to execute his office of compiler, has 
been highly satisfactory to Mr. Fletcher's friends, and 
to the readers of the publication in general. 

It is true, the Editors of a periodical work, termed 
the " Christian Observer," have represented it as an 
imperfection in his mode of compilation, that he did 
not " weave the whole of his materials into a com- 
pletely new work." But this, he must observe, was 
not the task assigned him ; nor would he, if desired, 
have consented to undertake it, well knowing, both 
that it would require more time than he could have 
spared from his other, not less important employ- 



VI PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. 

merits, and that the work would gain nothing thereby 
in point of real usefulness. For he was well persuaded, 
that he could not express the same things in his own 
words, so well as the Rev. Mess. Wesley and Gilpin 
had expressed them, nor clothe the materials fur- 
nished by these truly pious and learned writers in 
more pure, elegant, and forcible language, than they 
had used. He knew therefore, that to have pursued 
the plan the conductors of that Miscellany have sug- 
gested, would not have rendered the work more in- 
teresting, or more instructive to the reader, or in any 
respect better calculated to answer the great and im- 
portant ends of religious biography, which are not to 
gain honour and applause to the writer; but rather 
to excite and animate the reader to greater zeal and 
diligence in pursuit of whatever excellence might be 
described or exemplified in the subject of it. Add 
to this, he was sensible it was not the wish of any of 
the parties by whom he was pressed into this service, 
that the narratives of Mess. Wesley and Gilpin should 
be superseded and lost sight of. He knew it was 
rather their desire, that these well written, though 
incomplete accounts, should be brought forward 
afresh into public view, preserved and perpetuated, 
by being incorporated in one volume, with such other 
materials as might be collected ; thereby furnishing 
the public with such a clear and full history of that 
incomparable man, as might be of lasting use to 
the Church of Christ, and a mean of edification to 
thousands yet unborn. 

But " the natural consequence of this mode of com- 
pilation," say they, " is, that the work is defective in 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. vii 

clearness and uniformity, and that it is occasionally 
prolix and redundant." As to prolixity and redundance, 
the Editor is under no concern. The persons for 
whose use chiefly he undertook to compile this volume, 
have such veneration for the memory of Mr, Fletcher, 
that any information concerning him that is authen- 
tic, and at all instructive, or calculated to cast light 
upon his character, is peculiarly welcome ; although, 
to readers less apprized of his worth, it might appear 
unnecessary, or even superfluous. Under a persua- 
sion of this, at the same time that the Editor has cor- 
rected two or three unimportant mistakes, inadver- 
tently made in the former impression, he has enlarged 
the narrative still more in the present publication, by 
inserting several anecdotes, original letters, and other 
communications which had not come to hand when 
his manuscript for the first edition was sent to the 
press. 

But as to this point of prolixity, the Christian Ob- 
servers themselves have formed his apology. " It is 
but fair to observe (say they) as to this volume, that, 
as it was evidently intended chiefly for the perusal 
of the followers of Mr. Wesley, who are almost uni- 
versally great admirers of Mr. Fletcher, the Editor 
might not think it necessary to pay so much regard, 
in the construction of his work, to perspicuity of 
arrangement and elegance of manner as to the 
minuteness of his details, and the abundance of his 
matter." This statement, bating the unmerited insi- 
nuation contained in it against the followers of Mr. 
W. as persons who have less taste than their neigh- 
bours for order and elegance in composition, the 



VIII PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. 

Editor acknowledges to be pretty near the truth. He 
owns he did pay, and thought it his duty to pay, 
much more attention to the matter than to the form 
and manner of his work. He paid, however, con- 
siderable attention to the latter also, and ventures to 
say, while it has all the elegance which the fine 
pens of Mess. Gilpin, Wesley, and Fletcher could 
give it, the greatest part of its contents being ex- 
pressed in their words, it has all the perspicuity and 
clearness which " an arrangement according to the 
date of the events" could bestow, — an arrangement 
which these Observers themselves acknowledge to 
have been attended to. 

As to uniformity, it has what is quite sufficient for a 
work of the kind ; an uniformity, not indeed of lan- 
guage, the simple and laconic style of Mr. Wesley 
differing very materially from the diffuse and florid 
manner of Mr. Gilpin, and the copiousness of Mr. 
Fletcher; but what is infinitely more important, 
an uniformity of testimony, respecting the amiable 
and excellent subject of the narrative, and that 
blessed Gospel which he preached, which he lived, 
and which his most eminent gifts and graces highly 
adorned. It is also uniform as to its design, and it is 
hoped, that all its parts co-operate to produce the 
important effect intended, and that is, to induce 
every reader to follow Mr. Fletcher, as he followed 
Christ. 

In short, the Editor believes that he has pursued 
the best plan which he could have chosen, in order 
to trace, exhibit, and attest, from the mouths of dif- 
ferent witnesses, Mr. Fletcher's character and con- 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. 



duct through every period of his life ; and to give 
the reader at once a clear and full view of his pro- 
gressive wisdom, piety, and usefulness, and especially 
of that heavenly and divine mind, whereby he was 
prepared for the great and glorious reward awaiting 
him in the kingdom of his Father. 

Referring the reader to the Appendix annexed to 
this edition, for an answer to some, he thinks, unkind 
and illiberal remarks, contained in the fore-mentioned 
publication, on these two most eminently useful men, 
the Rev. Mess. Wesley and Fletcher, and on the 
Methodists in general ; — as a proper contrast to their 
critique, and a confirmation of the observations just 
made, the Editor will now take the liberty of laying 
before the reader the judgment passed upon this 
work, by the conductors of two other periodical pub- 
lications. Although no followers of Mr. Wesley, but 
persons of very different sentiments, as to some im- 
portant points of Christian doctrine, nevertheless 
they could not close their eyes to the uncommon 
piety, and other excellencies of the subject of this 
narrative. 

" Whatever difference of opinion," say the Editors 
of the Theological and Biblical Magazine, (see their 
Number for April, 1 805,) " may be entertained re- 
specting some important points of doctrine, which 
the late Mr. Fletcher publicly maintained, we believe 
that there is but one opinion as to the exalted piety 
of this eminent Christian. We have perused these 
memoirs with deep interest, and we hope also not 
without profit. His humility, disinterestedness, af- 
fection, zeal, and heavenly-mindedness have, perhaps, 
been seldom equalled; and few, we believe, will rise 



X 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION, 



from the perusal of the volume before us, without 
being ashamed of their own unprofitableness, and 
adoring the riches of divine grace, which were so 
extraordinarily manifested to this man of God. 
While reading this account of Mr. Fletcher, we fre- 
quently called to mind the late most amiable Mr. 
Pearce, of Birmingham, whose Life has been written 
by Mr. Fuller. There seems, indeed, to have been 
a very great resemblance in these two characters, 
both in the ardency of their Christian love, their en- 
tire devoted ness to God, and the constant communion 
they held with the Father of spirits. We have not 
room for quotations, yet we feel strongly inclined to 
give a few expressions of his, which indicate great 
candour towards those who thought differently from 
him in some less important particulars of doctrine." 
After producing a passage to this purpose, which 
the reader will find in page 338, " God forbid, &c." 
they add, " We, amongst many others, differ widely 
from Mr. F. in some points of doctrine, but we cannot 
withhold our admiration of a character so truly 
lovely and exalted. Mr. Benson has performed his 
part, in collecting the materials for this Life of Mr, 
F. in a very respectable manner." 

The following; sentences are transcribed from the 
Eclectic Review for June, 1805, in which this work is 
considered at large- — "There have been some, in most 
ages of Christianity, and in most countries where it is 
professed, who have emulated its primitive and 
genuine excellence. Amongst these exalted few, the 
subject of the biography before us is unquestionably 
to be ranked. In whatever period he had lived, to 
whatever department of Christians he had belonged, 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. XI 

he would have shone in the religious hemisphere, as 
a star of the first magnitude." After giving, from the 
volume, a general outline of his history, they add, 
" We must refer to the narrative of his short illness, 
given by Mrs. Fletcher, and to an ample character 
of him previously introduced, for a more adequate 
idea of this excellent man than we can attempt to 
impart. It was deemed preferable to give the pre- 
ceding outline, rather than extracts of the work, as 
those (parts) which describe the more striking scenes 
of Mr. F.'s life have formerly been printed. Mr. B. 
has very judiciously connected and completed, either 
from his own knowledge, or authentic documents, the 
detached accounts which had appeared in various 
publications." After mentioning a few passages, by 
the omission of which, and by the accession of Mr. 
F.'s character, as a tutor and as a writer, the Authors 
of the Eclectic Review think the volume might be 
amended, they add, " We can cordially recommend 
it, in its present state, to serious and candid Chris- 
tians, of every variety of form and sentiment: and it 
would greatly surprise us, should any person of this 
description rise up from the perusal of it, and assert 
that it had not afforded him pleasure and improve- 
ment." 

The Editor, 



THE 



REV. MR. WESLEY'S PREFACE 

TO 

THE READER* 

man in England has had so long an acquaintance 
with Mr. Fletcher as myself. Our acquaintance 
began almost as soon as his arrival in London, about 
the year 1752, before he entered into Holy Orders, 
or (I believe) had any such intention. And it con- 
tinued uninterrupted between thirty and forty years, 
even till it pleased God to take him to himself. Nor 
was ours a slight or ordinary acquaintance ; but we 
were of one heart and of one soul. We had no 
secrets between us for many years ; we did not pur- 
posely hide any thing from each other. From time 
to time he consulted me, and I him, on the most im- 
portant occasions. And he constantly professed, not 
only much esteem, but (what I valued far more) much 
affection. He told me, in one of his letters, (I doubt 
not from his heart,) 

<c Tecum vivere amem ; tecum obeam lubens .* 
With thee I gladly would both live and die ' 



xiv 



mr. Wesley's preface. 



I therefore think myself obliged, by the strongest 
ties, to pay this small tribute to his memory. But 
you may easily observe, that in doing this, I am little 
more than a Compiler. For I owe a great, if not the 
greatest part of the ensuing Tract to a few friends, 
who have been at no small pains in furnishing me 
with materials : and, above all, to my dear friend, 
(such she has been almost from her childhood,) Mrs, 
Fletcher. I could easily have altered both her's and 
their language, while I retained their sentiments. 
But I was conscious I could not alter it for the 
better : and I would not alter for altering's sake : but 
judged it fairest to give you most of their accounts 
very nearly in their own words. 

Amsterdam, 
September 12, 1786 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. PAGE, 

L Of his Parentage and Youth . . . . » . 17 

II. His Conversion . . . 28 

III. From his Conversion to his taking Orders, and enter- 

ing upon the Work of the Ministry 40 

IV. Of his Qualifications for, and Faithfulness in the 

Work of the Ministry, and of his Labours at 



Madeley, and elsewhere 65 

V. Of the Excursions he made to different Places, his first 
Visit to his native Country, his Office and Usefulness 
at Trevecka, and of the Steps whereby he was led to 
write on Controversial Subjects 131 

VI. Of his declining State of Health, the Progress of his 

Disorder, and his Behaviour under it, with an Ac- 
count of his other Polemical Writings, and the Con- 
clusion of the Controversy . 176 

VII. From his leaving Newington, till his Return from Swit- 

zerland to Madeley 217 

VIII. Of his Marriage 291 

IX. From his Marriage till the beginning of his last Illness 304 
X. His Character, taken chiefly from the Rev, Mr, Gil- 
pin's Account 320 

XI. His Character, by Mrs, Fletcher and others 349 

XII. His Death 365 



THE 



LIFE 

OF THE 

Rev. JOHN WILLIAM tie la FLECHEBB 

— « — . 
CHAPTER L 

Of his Parentage and Youth. 

J OHN WILLIAM DE LA FLECHERE (this was properly 
his name,) was born at Nyon in Switzerland,* a town about 
fifteen miles north of Geneva, on September the twelfth, in the 
year 1729. His father was an officer in the French service, till 
he left the army in order to marry. But after a time, he 
returned to the same line of life, and was a colonel in the militia 
of his own country. Of this gentleman, whose family is one of 
the most respectable in the Canton of Berne, and a branch of 
an earldom of Savoy, Mr. Fletcher was the youngest son. 

2. He passed the early part of his life f at Nyon, where he 
soon discovered an elevated turn of mind, accompanied with an 
unusual degree of vivacity. After having made a good profi- 
ciency in school learning, he was removed, with his two brothers, 
to Geneva, where he was distinguished equally by his superior 
abilities, and his uncommon application. The two first prizes, 
for which he stood a candidate, he carried away from a number 
of competitors, several of whom were nearly related to the 
professors : and on these occasions he was complimented by hi* 

* Wesley's Life of Fletcher, 
t Gilpin's Note?, subjoined to Fletcher's Portrait of St. Paul. 



tJ8 



THE LIFE Of 



superiors in a very flattering manner. During Ins residence at 
Geneva, he allowed himself but little time, either for recreation, 
refreshment, or rest. After confining himself closely to his 
studies all the day, he would frequently consume the greater 
part of the night in noting down whatever had occurred, in the 
course of his reading, worthy of observation. Here he acquired 
that true classical taste, which was so frequently and justly ad- 
mired by his intimate friends, and which all his studied plainness 
could never conceal. Here also he laid the foundation of that 
extensive and accurate knowledge, for which he was afterward 
distinguished, both in Philosophical and Theological researches. 
After quitting Geneva, he was sent by his father to Lentzbourg, 
a small town in the Swiss Cantons, where he not only acquired 
the German language, but diligently prosecuted his other studies, 
to which he ever discovered a passionate attachment. On his 
return from tins place he continued some time at home, studying 
the Hebrew language, and perfecting his acquaintance with 
Mathematical learning. 

3. His early piety was equally remarkable with his early 
attainments. From his childhood he was impressed with a deep 
sense of the majesty of God, and a constant fear of offending 
him, and manifested great tenderness of conscience, as appears 
by the following instances. One day having offended his father, 
who threatened to correct him, he did not dare to come into his 
presence, but retired into the garden : and when he saw him 
coming toward him, he ran away with all speed. But he was 
presently struck with deep remorse, and said to himself, "What ! 
do I run away from my father ? Perhaps I shall live to have a 
son that will run away from me /" And it was several years 
before the impression, which he then received, was worn off. 

4. Another instance of his tenderness of conscience occurred 
when he was about seven years of age. He was one day re- 
proved by the nursery-maid, saying, " You are a naughty boy. 
Do you not know that the devil is to take away all naughty 
children ?" He was no sooner in bed, than he began to reflect 
very deeply upon her words. He thought, " I am a naughty boy. 
And how do I know, but God may let the devil take me away 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



19 



liiis night." He then got up, fell down upon his knees before 
God, and prayed earnestly for a considerable time, till he felt 
such a sense of the divine love as quieted every fear. He then 
lay down in peace and safety. 

5. Mr. Fletcher's early acquaintance with the Holy Scrip- 
tures guarded him, on the one hand, from the snares of infi- 
delity, and preserved him, on the other, from many of the vices 
peculiar to youth. His conversation was modest, and his whole 
conduct marked with a degree of rectitude not usually to be 
found in early life. He manifested an extraordinary turn for 
religious meditation : and those little productions which gained 
him the greatest applause, at this period, were chiefly of a seri- 
ous tendency. His filial obedience and brotherly affection were 
exemplary ; nor is it remembered that he ever uttered one un- 
becoming expression in either of those characters. He was a 
constant reprover of sin ; and his modest freedom in this respect 
is said once to have offended a mother he tenderly loved. 
While she was, on some occasion, expressing herself in too 
warm a manner to one of the family, he turned his eye upon 
her with a gentle reproof. She was displeased with the modest 
reprehension, and repaid it with some severity, which he re- 
ceived with the utmost submission, making only the following 
reply ; " When I am smitten on one cheek, and especially by a 
hand I love so well, I am taught to turn the other also." This 
expression was not employed with an air of bravado, but with 
a look of so much tender affection, that the indignation of his 
mother was instantly turned into a look of pleasing admiration. 

6. Persons who are designed by the Almighty for eminent 
services in his church are frequently distinguished in their youth, 
by striking peculiarities, which awaken in those around them an 
expectation of something extraordinary in their future character. 
Of this kind was the following circumstance. During Mr. 
Fletcher's residence at Geneva, his sister, Madame de Botens, 
who had taken a house in that city for the convenience of her 
brothers, was visited by a widow lady from Nyon. This lady 
was accompanied by her three sons, who were not the most 
happily disposed, and whose improper conduct, at this time. 



2G 



THE LIFE OF 



provoked her to so uncommon a degree, as to extort from her a 
hasty imprecation. Mr. Fletcher, who was present upon thie: 
occasion, was so struck with the unnatural carriage of this 
exasperated mother, that, instantly starting from his chair, he 
addressed her in a very powerful remonstrance. He reasoned 
with her in an affecting and pointed manner. He observed and 
lamented the difficulties of her situation ; but entreated her to 
struggle against them with discretion, and not with impatience. 
He exhorted her to educate her children in the fear of God, and 
to second such education by her own pious example. After 
assuring her, that her conduct on the present occasion, had 
filled him with the utmost horror, and that he could not but 
tremble for the consequences of it ; he concluded his address 
by alarming her fears, lest the imprecation she had uttered 
should be followed by some unexpected family affliction. That 
same day the widow, in her return to Nyon, embarked upon the 
lake, where she was overtaken with a tremendous storm, and 
brought to the very point of perishing. In the midst of her 
danger, the words of her young prophet, as she ever afterward 
termed Mr. Fletcher, were deeply impressed upon her mind. 
But they shortly returned upon her in a more forcible manner, 
with the melancholy intelligence, that two of her sons were lost 
upon the lake, and the third crushed to death at one of the 
gates of Geneva. At this time Mr. Fletcher was not more 
than fourteen years of age. 

7. While Mr. Fletcher was yet a youth, his life was sundry 
times in imminent danger, but was mercifully preserved. One 
day, as he informed Mrs. Fletcher, he and his elder brother, 
being about to exercise themselves in fencing, had taken real, 
instead of wooden swords, with buttons fixed upon the points of 
them. His brother making a hard push at him, the button upon 
the point of his sword, split in two, and the sword entered Mr. 
Fletchers side, near his bowels, and gave him so deep a wound, 
(hat he carried the scar of it to his grave. 

At another time, he and his brother went upon the Lake of 
Geneva in a little boat, and jrowed forward till, being out of 
sight of land, they knew not what way they were going, nor 



THE REV. JiOHN FLETCHER. 



whether they were approaching or removing further from the 
shore from which they had set out. The evening now came 
on, and it was beginning to grow dark, and as they were pro- 
ceeding towards the middle of the Lake, in all probability they 
would have been lost, had it not providentially happened, that, 
in consequence of some news arriving in town, the bells began 
to ring. They could but just hear them, but were soon con- 
vinced that instead of rowing to land, as they had intended, they 
had been proceeding further and further from it. Making now 
towards the quarter from which they perceived the sound to 
come, they found they had just strength enough left to reach 
the shore. 

8. To these accounts of his remarkable preservation given 
by himself to Mrs. Fletcher, I shall add some still more remark- 
able, which he gave to Mr. Samuel Webb, of London, then re- 
siding at Madeley, as related in the short Narrative of his Life 
and death, published by the Rev. Mr. Wesley. " When I was 
a lad, I had a design to get some fruit out of my father's garden . 
The door being locked, I could not get in, but by climbing over 
-the wall. This was very high ; but with some difficulty I got 
to the top of it. As I was walking upon it, my foot slipped, and 
I fell down to the bottom. But just where I fell, a large 
quantity of fresh made mortar was laid. I fell exactly upon it. 
This broke my fall, or it might have cost me my life.' 5 

Again. " Once as T was swimming by myself in a deep water, 
one end of a strong ribband which bound my hair, getting loose, 
I know not how, and twisting about my leg, tied me as it were 
neck and heels. I strove with all my strength to disengage my- 
self : but it was to no purpose. No person being within call, I 
gave myself up for lost. But when I had given over struggling, 
the ribband loosed of itself." 

" Another instance of the tender care which God had over 
me, was as follows : One evening I and four young gentlemen, 
in high spirits, made a solemn agreement with each other, to 
swim next day to a rocky island, five miles distant from the 
shore. But this foolish adventure was within a very little of 
costing us all our lives. I and another indeed did with great 



22 



THE LIFE Oi 



difficulty and hazard swim to the island. But when we came 
thither, the rock was so steep and smooth, that we could not pos- 
sibly climb up. After swimming round several times, and 
making many ineffectual efforts, we thought we must perish 
there. But at length one of us found a place, where he made 
a shift to crawl up. He then helped his companion. The 
others swam about half way, a boat then took them up, when 
they were just sinking. Another boat which we had ordered to 
follow us, afterward came and took us home/ 5 

9. But the deliverance of which he gave an account in the 
year 1760, is yet more wonderful. "Some years since I lived 
at a place very near the river Rhine. In that part it is broader 
than the Thames at London-bridge, and extremely rapid. But 
having been long practised in swimming, I made no scruple of 
going into it at any time. Only I was always careful to keep 
near the shore, that the stream might not carry me away. Once, 
however, being less careful than usual, I was unawares drawn 
into the mid-channel. The water there was extremely rough, 
and poured along like a galloping horse. I endeavoured to 
swim against it, but in vain, till I was hurried far from home. 
When I was almost spent, I rested upon my back, and then 
looked about for a landing place, finding I mast either land or 
sink. With much difficulty I got near the shore ; but the rocks 
were so ragged and sharp, that I saw, if I attempted to land 
there, I should be torn in pieces. So I was constrained to turn 
again to the mid-stream : at last despairing of life, I was cheered 
by the sight of a fine smooth creek, into which I was swiftly car- 
ried by a violent stream. A building stood directly across it, 
which I did not then know to be a powder-mill. The last thing 
1 can remember, was the striking of my breast against one of 
the piles whereon it stood. I then lost my senses, and knew 
nothing more, till I rose on the other side of the mill. When I 
came to myself I was in a calm safe place, perfectly well, with- 
out any soreness or weariness at all. Nothing was amiss but 
(he distance of my clothes, the stream having driven me five 
miles from the place where I left them. Many persons gladly 
welcomed me on shore : one gentleman in particular, who said. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



23 



C{ I looked when you went under the mill, and again when you 
rose on the other side, And the time of your being immerged 
among the piles, was exactly twenty minutes." 

But some will say, " Why this was a miracle 1" " Undoubt- 
edly," observes Mr. Wesley, " it was. It was not a natural 
event ; but a work wrought above the power of nature, pro- 
bably by the ministry of angels." 

10. After Mr. Fletcher had gone through the usual course of 
study at the university of Geneva, it was the desire of his 
parents that he should be a clergyman. " And as far as nature 
can furnish a man," says Mr. Gilpin, " for offices of a sacred 
kind, perhaps there never was a person better qualified to sus- 
tain the character of a minister of Jesus Christ, than Mr, 
Fletcher. His disposition and habits, his sentiments and studies, 
his reverential awe of God, his insatiable thirst after truth, and 
his uncommon abhorrence of vice, gave his friends abundant 
reason to apprehend, that he was marked, at an early age, for 
the service of the church. Contrary, however, to all expecta- 
tion, and contrary to the first designs of his family, before he 
had arrived at the age of twenty, he manifested views of a very 
opposite nature. His theological studies gave place to the 
systems of Vauban and Cohorn, and he evidently preferred the 
camp to the church. All the remonstrances of his friends, on 
this apparent change in his disposition, were totally ineffectual ; 
and, had it not been for repeated disappointments, he would 
have wielded another sword than that of the Spirit. Happily, 
his projects for the field were constantly baffled and blasted by 
the appointments of that God, who reserved him for a more 
important scene of action. His choice of the army is, however, 
to be imputed rather to principle than inclination. On the one 
hand, he detested the irregularities and vices to which a mili- 
tary life would expose him : on the other, he dreaded the con- 
demnation he might incur, by acquitting himself unfaithfully in 
the pastoral office. He conceived it abundantly easier to toil 
for glory in fields of blood, than to labour for God, with 
unwearied perseverance, in the vineyard of the church. He 
beheved himself qualified rather for military operations, than 



24 



THE LIFE OF 



for spiritual employments, and the exalted ideas he entertained 
of the holy ministry determined him to seek some other profes- 
sion, more adapted to the weakness of humanity, and he pre- 
ferred being an officer in the army to all others." 

11. Mr. Fletcher himself, in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Wesley, 
dated Nov. 24, 1 756, a few weeks before he took orders, partly 
confirms these observations of Mr. Gilpin, and partly assigns an 
additional reason why he then declined the sacred office of the 
ministry. " From the time I first began to feel the love of God," 
says he, " shed abroad in my soul, which was, I think, at seven 
years of age, I resolved to give myself up to him, and to the 
service of his church, if ever I should be fit for it ; but the cor- 
ruption which is in the world, and that which was in my heart, 
soon weakened, if not erased, those first characters which grace 
had written upon it. However, I went through my studies, 
with a design of going into orders ; but afterward, upon serious 
reflection, feeling I was unequal to so great a burden, and dis- 
gusted by the necessity I should be under to subscribe the doc- 
trine of Predestination, I yielded to the desire of those of my 
friends who would have me to go into the army. But just before 
I was quite engaged in a military employment, I met with such 
disappointments as occasioned my coming to England." Add 
to this, that he disapproved of the motives which had chiefly 
induced his parents to desire him to enter into the ministry. 
This appears from an observation which he made to Mrs. 
Fletcher one day, while he was showing her a piece of painting 
which he had executed when he was about sixteen years of age. 
" I was then studying Fortification," said he, " with a view to 
go into the army. Once, indeed, my friends having a prospect 
of obtaining preferment for me, wanted me to go into the 
church. But that motive I thought by no means right, and 
therefore, still pursued my plan of being a soldier." So that, 
according to his own account, he at that time declined the 
ministry, for three reasons: 1st. Because he judged himself 
unqualified for so high and holy a calling : 2dly. He scrupled 
subscribing the doctrine of Predestination, which, it seems, he 
must have done, to have taken orders in Switzerland; and f 



THE RET. JOHN FLETCHER. 



25 



3dly. He disapproved of undertaking so sacred an office, as 
that of preaching the Gospel, in order to obtain preferment, or 
with any worldly views whatever. 

1 2. Not being able to gain the consent of his parents to his 
going into the army, according to Mr. Wesley, he went away to 
Lisbon. Here, it seems, he gathered a company of his own coun- 
trymen, accepted of a captain's commission, and engaged to 
serve the king of Portugal, on board a man of war, which was 
just then getting ready with all speed, in order to sail to Brazil. 
He then wrote to his parents, begging them to send him a con- 
siderable sum of money. Of this he expected to make a vast 
advantage. But they refused him. Unmoved by this he 
determined to go without it, as soon as the ship sailed. But in 
the morning, the maid waiting on him at breakfast, let the tea- 
kettle fall, and so scalded his leg, that he kept his bed for a 
considerable time after. During that time the ship sailed for 
Brazil. But it was observed, that the ship was heard of no 
more. 

13. His desire of being an officer in the army, Mr. Wes- 
ley tells us, continued after he returned from Lisbon. And 
when he was informed, that his uncle, then a colonel in the 
Dutch service, had procured a commission for him, he joyfully 
set out for Flanders. But just at that time the peace was con- 
eluded ; and his uncle dying quickly after, his hopes were 
blasted, and he gave up all thoughts of being a soldier. And, 
being disengaged from all business, he thought it would not be 
amiss, to spend a little time in England. 

14. Coming to the custom-house in London, with some other 
young gentlemen, none of whom could speak any English, they 
were treated with the utmost surliness and ill manners by some 
brutish custom-house officers. These not only took out, and 
jumbled together, all the things that were in their portman- 
teaus, but took away their letters of recommendation, telling 
them, " All letters must be sent by the post." It is justly ob- 
served by Mr. Wesley, that " they are such saucy and ill-man- 
nered wretches as these who bring up an evil report on cur 

4 



THE LIFE OF 



nation. Britons might well be styled Hosprfibus fcri, if they 
were all like these vermin." 

15. From hence they went to an inn; but here they were 
under another difficulty. As they spoke no English they could 
not tell how to exchange their foreign into English money ; till 
Mr. Fletcher, going to the door, Iieard a well dressed Jew talk- 
ing French. He told him the difficulty they were under with 
regard to the exchange of money. The Jew replied, " Give 
me your money, and I will get it changed in five minutes.*' 
Mr. Fletcher without delay, gave him his purse, in which were 
ninety pounds. As soon as he came back to his company, he 
told them what he had done. They all cried out with one. 
voice, " Then your money is gone. You need never expect to 
see a crown or a doit of it any more. Men are constantly 
waiting about the doors of these inns, on purpose to take in 
young strangers." Seeing no remedy, no way to help himself, 
he could only commend his cause to God. And that wa> 
enough. Before they had done breakfast, in came the Jew. 
and brought him the whole money. 

16. Inquiring for a person who was proper to perfect him in 
the English tongue, (the rudiments of which he had begun t* 
learn before he left Geneva) he was recommended to Mr. Bur- 
chell, who then kept a boarding-school at South-Mimms. in 
Hertfordshire. And when Mr. Burchell removed to Hatfield, 
he chose to remove with him. All the time he was both at 
South-Mimms and at Hatfield, he was of a serious and reserv ed 
behaviour ; very different from that of the other young gentlemen, 
who were his fellow-students. Here he diligently studied both 
the English language, and all the branches of polite literature. 
Meantime his easy and genteel behaviour, together with his 
eminent sweetness of temper, gained him the esteem as well as 
the affection of all that conversed with him. He frequently 
visited some of the first families in Hatfield, who were all fond 
of his conversation : so lively and ingenious, at the same time, 
evidencing both the gentleman and the scholar. All this time 
be had the fear of God deeply rooted in his heart. But he had 



I 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



2? 



none to take him by the hand and lead him forward in the ways 
of God. He stayed with Mr. Burchell about eighteen months, 
who loved him as his own son. 

17. Afterward one Mr. Decamps, a French minister, to 
whom he had been recommended, procured him the place of 
tutor to the two sons of Thomas Hill, esquire, at Tern-hall, in 
Shropshire. In the year 1752, he removed into Mr. Hill's 
family, and entered upon the important province of instructing 
the young gentlemen. He still feared God, but had not yet an 
experimental sense of his love. Nor was he convinced of his 
own fallen state, till one Sunday evening a servant came in to 
make up his fire, while he was writing some music, w T ho, looking 
at him with serious concern, said, " Sir, I am sorry to see you 
so employed on the Lord's day." At first his pride was alarm- 
ed, and his resentment moved at being reproved by a servant, 
But upon reflection, he felt the reproof was just. He imme- 
diately put away his music, and from that very hour became a 
strict observer of the Lord's day. 

18. 61 1 have heard," says Mr. Wesley, "two very different 
accounts of the manner wherein he had the first notice of the 
people called Methodists. But I think it reasonable to prefer 
to any other, that which 1 received from his own mouth. This 
was as follows : 

" When Mr. Hill went to London to attend the Parliament, 
he took his family and Mr. Fletcher with him. While they 
stopped at St. Albans, he walked out into the town, and did not 
return till they were set out for London. A horse being left 
for him, he rode after, and overtook them in the evening. Mr. 
Hill asking him why he stayed behind ? He said, * As I was 
walking, I met with a poor old woman, who talked so sweetly 
of Jesus Christ, that I knew not how the time passed away.' 
' I shall wonder,' said Mrs. H. » if our tutor does not turn 
Methodist by and by.' ' Methodist, madam. 5 said he, ' pray 
what is that?' She replied, 4 Why, the Methodists are a peo- 
ple that do nothing but pray : they are praying all day and all 
night.' 6 Are they ?' said he, * then, by the help of God, 1 
will find them out if they be above ground.' He did find them 



g£ THE LIFE OF 

out not long after, and was admitted into the Society. And 
from this time, whenever he was in town, he met in Mr. Richard 
Edwards's class. This he found so profitable to his soul, that he 
lost no opportunity of meeting. And he retained a peculiar 
regard for Mr. Edwards, till the day of his death." 

CHAPTER II. 

Of his Conversion, 

*. Notwithstanding the early appearance of piety in 
Mr. Fletcher, it is evident that he continued, for a long time, a 
perfect stranger to the true nature of Christianity. He was 
naturally of a high and ambitious turn, though his ambition was 
sufficiently refined for religious as well as scientific pursuits. 
He aspired after rectitude, and was anxious to possess every 
moral perfection. He counted much upon the dignity of human 
nature, and was ambitious to act in a manner becoming his 
exalted ideas of that dignity. And here he outstripped the mul- 
titude in an uncommon degree. He was rigidly just in his 
dealings, and inflexibly true to his word ; he was a strict ob- 
server of his several duties in every relation of life ; his senti- 
ments were liberal, and his charity profuse ; he was prudent in 
his conduct, and courteous in his deportment ; he was a diligent 
inquirer after truth, and a strenuous advocate for virtue ; he was 
frequent in sacred meditations, and was a regular attendant at 
public worship. Possessed of so many moral accomplishments, 
while he was admired by his friends, it is no wonder that he 
should cast a look of self-complacency upon his character, and 
consider himself, with respect to his attainments in virtue, 
abundantly superior to the common herd of mankind. But 
while he was taken up in congratulating himself upon his own 
fancied eminence in piety, he was an absolute stranger to that 
unfeigned sorrow for sin, which is the first step towards the king- 
dom of God. It was not till after he had resided some time in 
England, that he became experimentally acquainted with the 



I ! 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



29 



nature of true repentance. This, according to Mrs. Fletcher's 
account, was in the following manner. 

2. Meeting with a person who asked him to go and hear the 
Methodists ; he readily consented, and from that time became 
more and more conscious that a change of heart was necessary 
to make him happy. He now began to strive with the utmost 
diligence, according to the light he had, hoping, by doing muchj 
to render himself acceptable to God. But one day hearing a 
sermon preached by a clergymen whose name was Green, he 
was convinced he did not understand the nature of saving faith. 
This conviction caused many reflections to arise in his mind. 
" Is it possible," thought he, " that I, who have always been 
accounted so religious, who have made Divinity my study, and 
received the premium of piety, (so called) from the university 
for my writings on divine subjects, — is it possible, that I should 
yet be so ignorant as not to know what faith is W But the 
more he examined himself, and considered the subject, the 
more he was convinced of the momentous truth. And begin- 
ning also to see his sinfulness and guilt, and the entire corrup- 
tion and depravity of his whole nature, his hope of being able to 
reconcile himself to God by his own works began to die away. 
He sought, however, by the most rigorous austerities to conquer 
this evil nature, and bring into his soul a heaven-born peace. 
But alas ! the more he strove, the more he saw and felt that all 
his soul was sin. And now he was entirely at a loss what to do, 
being conscious of his danger, and seeing no way to escape, till 
at last he discovered that nothing, except a revelation of the 
Lord Jesus to his heart, could make him a true believer. 

3. But a few pages transcribed from a diary, written by his 
own hand, when he was about twenty-five years of age, will give 
the reader the best information on this subject. 

" The 12th of January, 1755, I received the sacrament, 
though my heart was as hard as a flint. The following day, I 
felt the tyranny of sin more than ever, and an uncommon cold- 
ness in all religious duties. I felt the burden of my corrup- 
tions heavier than ever; there was no rest in my flesh. I 
called upon the. Lord, but with such heaviness as made me fear 



THE LIFL 01 



it was lost labour. The more I prayed for victory over sin, the 
more I was conquered. Many a time did I take up the Bible 
to seek comfort, but not being able to read, I shut it again. 
The thoughts which engrossed my mind were generally these. 
I am undone. I have wandered from God more than ever. 
I have trampled under foot the frequent convictions which God 
was pleased to work in my heart. Instead of going straight to 
Christ, I have wasted my time in fighting against sin with the 
dim light of my reason, and the mere use of the means of grace ; 
as if the means would do me good without the blessing and 
power of God. I fear my knowledge of Christ is only specula- 
tive, and does not reach my heart. I never had faith; and 
without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, all 
my thoughts, words, and works, however specious before men,, 
are utterly sinful before God. And if I am not washed and re- 
newed before I go hence, I am lost to all eternity. 

4. W When I saw that all my endeavours availed nothing 
towards conquering sin, I almost gave up all hope, and resolved 
to sin on, and go to hell. But I remember, there was a sort of 
sweetness even in the midst of these abominable thoughts. If 
I go to hell, said I, I will serve God there : and since I cannot 
l>e an instance of his mercy in heaven, I will be a monument of 
his justice in hell : and if I show forth his glory one way or the 
other, I am content. But I soon recovered my ground. I 
thought Christ died fur all, therefore he died for me. He 
died to pluck such sinners as I am as brands out of the burning. 
And as I sincerely desire to be his, he will surely take me to 
himself: — he will surely let me know, before I die, that he hath 
died for me. and will break asunder these chains wherewith I 
am bound. If he leave me for a little while in this dreadful 
state, it is only to show me the depth of the misery he will 
draw me out of. I must then humble myself under his mighty 
hand, and he will lift me up in his appointed time. But then I 
thought, this, perhaps, may not be till my dying hour — and must 
I sin on till then? How can I endure this? But I thought 
igain, my Saviour was above thirty-three years working out my 
salvation : let me wait for him as long, and then I may have 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



31 



some excuse for my impatience. Does God owe me any thing ? 
Is he bound to time and place ? Do I deserve any thing at his 
hands but damnation ? I would here observe, that anger in par- 
ticular seemed to be one of the sins I could never overcome. 
So I went on, sinning and repenting, and sinning again ; but still 
calling on God's mercy through Christ. 

5. " I was now beat out of all my strong holds. I felt my 
helplessness, and lay at the feet of Christ. I cried, though 
coldly, yet I believe sincerely, 6 Save me, Lord, as a brand 
snatched out of the fire ; give me justifying faith in thy blood j 
cleanse me from my sins ; for the devil will surely reign over 
me, until thou shalt take me into thy hand. I shall only be an 
instrument in his hand to work wickedness, until thou shalt 
stretch forth thine almighty arm, and save thy lost creature by 
free unmerited grace.' I seldom went to private prayer, but 
this thought came into my mind. — This may be the happy hour 
when thou wilt prevail with God ; but still I was disappointed. 
I cried to God ; but my heart was so hard, that I feared it did 
not go with my lips. 1 strove, but it was so coldly, that often I 
had fits of drowsiness even in my prayers. When overcome 
with heaviness, I went to bed, beseeching God to spare me till 
next day, that I might renew my wrestling with him till I should 
prevail. 

6. " On Sunday the 19th, in the evening, I heard an excel- 
lent sermon on these words, — 6 Being justified by faith, we have 
peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' I heard it 
attentively, but my heart was not moved in the least ; T was 
only still more convinced, that I was an unbeliever, that I was 
not justified by faith, and that till I was, I should never have 
peace with God. The hymn after the sermon suited the sub- 
ject ; but I could not join in singing it. So I sat mourning, 
whilst others rejoiced in God their Saviour. I went home, still 
resolving to wrestle with the Lord like Jacob, till I should be 
come a prevailing Israel. 

" I begged of God, the following day, to show me the wicked 
ness of my heart, and to fit me for his pardoning mercy. I 
besought him to increase my convictions, for I was afraid I did 



o2 



JUL LIFE OF 



not mourn enough for my sins. But I found relief in Mr. Wes- 
ley's Journal, where I learned that we should not build on what 
we feel ; but go to Christ with all our sins, and all our hardness 
of heart. On the 21st, I began to write part of what rilled my 
heart, namely, a confession of my sins, misery, and helplessness, 
together with a resolution to seek Christ, even unto death. But 
my business calling me away, I had no heart to resume the sub- 
ject. In the evening I read the Scriptures, and found a sort of 
pleasure in seeing a picture of my wickedness so exactly drawn 
in the third chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and that of my 
condition in the seventh. And now I felt some hope, that God 
would carry on in me the work he had begun. 

" 1 often wished to be acquainted with some one who had 
been just in my state, and resolved to seek for one to whom 
I might unbosom my whole soul and apply for advice. As I 
had heard that mourners sometimes found comfort in reading 
over any particular text of scripture they opened upon, I opened 
the Bible once, for that purpose ; but 1 found nothing that 
gave me comfort, and so I did it no more, for fear of tempting 
God. 

7. u Thursday, my fast-day, Satan beset me hard; I sinned, 
and grievously too. And now I almost gave up all hope. I 
mourned deeply, but with a heart as hard as ever. I was on 
the brink of despair, and continued nevertheless to fall into sin. 
as often as I was assaulted with temptation. But I must ob- 
serve, that all this while, though I had a clear sense of my wick- 
edness ; and of what I deserved ; and though I often thought 
that hell would be my portion, if God did not 60on pity me. yet 
I never was much afraid of it. Whether this was owing to a 
secret hope lodged in my mind, or to hardness of heart, I know 
not; but I was continually crying out, 6 What stupidity ! I see 
myself hanging as by a thread over hell ! and yet I am not afraid 
— but sin on ! O what is man without the grace of God ! a very 
devil in wickedness, though inferior to him in experience and 
power.' In the evening I went to a friend, and told him some- 
thing of my present state; he endeavoured to administer com- 
fort, but it did not suit my case: there is no peace to a sinner 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



35 



unless it come from above. When we parted, he gave me 
some advice which suited my condition better, ' God (said 
he) is merciful ; God loves you ; and if he deny you any thing, 
it is for your good ; you deserve nothing at his hands, wait then 
patiently for him, and never give up your hope." 1 I went home 
resolved to follow his advice, though I should stay till death. 

8. " I had purposed to receive the Lord's supper the following 
Sunday, I therefore returned to my room, and looked out a 
sacramental hymn. I learned it by heart, and prayed it over 
many times, sometimes with heaviness enough, at others with 
some devotion, intending to repeat it at the table. I then went 
to bed, commending myself to God with rather more hope and 
peace than I had felt for some time. But Satan waked, while 
I slept. I dreamed I had committed grievous and abominable 
sins ; I awoke amazed and confounded, and rising with a detes- 
tation of the corruption of my senses and imagination, I fell 
upon my knees, and prayed with more faith and less wanderings 
than usual ; and afterward went about my business with an 
uncommon cheerfulness. It was not long before I was tempted 
by my besetting sin, but found myself a new creature. My soul 
was not even ruffled. I took not much notice of it at first ; 
but having withstood two or three temptations, and feeling 
peace in my soul, through the whole of them, I began to think 
it was the Lord's doing. Afterward it was suggested to me, 
that it was great presumption for such a sinner to hope for so 
great a mercy. However, I prayed I might not be permitted 
to fall into a delusion ; but the more I prayed, the more I saw 
it was real. For though sin stirred all the day long, I always 
overcame it in the name of the Lord. 

9. " In the evening I read the experiences of some of God's 
children, and found my case agreed with theirs, and suited the 
sermon I had heard on justifying faith; so that my hope 
increased. I entreated the Lord to do to his servant according 
to his mercy, and take all the glory to himself. I prayed 
earnestly and with an humble assurance, though without great 
emotions of joy, that I might have dominion over sin, and peace 
with God ; not doubting but that joy and a full assurance of 



34 



THE LIFE OF 



faith would be imparted to me in God's good time. I continued 
calling upon the Lord for an increase of faith ; for still 1 felt 
some fear of being in a delusion : and having continued my 
my supplication till near one in the morning, I then opened my 
Bible on these words, Psa. lv. 22. " Cast thy burden on the 
Lord, and he shall sustain thee ; he will not suffer the righteous 
to be moved. " Filled with joy, I fell again on my knees to beg 
of God that I might always cast my burden upon him. I took 
up my Bible again, and opened it on these words, Deut. xxxi. 
" I will be with thee, I will not fail thee, neither forsake thee : 
fear not, neither be dismayed." My hope was now greatly 
increased, I thought I saw myself conqueror over sin, hell, and 
all manner of affliction. 

" With this comfortable promise I shut up my Bible, being 
now perfectly satisfied. As I shut it, I cast my eye on that 
word, " Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, I will do it.' : 
So having asked grace of God to serve him till death, I went 
cheerfully to take my rest." 

10. So far we have Mr. Fletcher's account, written with his 
own hand. To this I add what Mrs. Fletcher says she heard 
him speak concerning his experience at this time, viz. that he 
still continued to plead with the Lord to take more full posses- 
sion of his heart, and sought with unwearied assiduity to receive 
a brighter manifestation of God's love to his soul : till one day, 
as he was in earnest prayer, lying prostrate on his face before 
the Lord, he had a view, by faith, of our Saviour hanging and 
bleeding on the cross, and at the same time, these words were 
applied with power to his heart : 

" Seized by the rage of sinful men, 
I see Christ bound, and bruis'd, and slain : 

'Tis done, the martyr dies I 
His life to ransom our's, is given, 
And lo ! the fiercest fire of heaven 

Consumes the sacrifice. 

" He suffers both from men and God, 
He bears the universal load 
Of guilt and misery ! 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



35 



He suffers to reverse our doom, 
And lo, my Lord is here become 
The Bread of Life to me .'" 

Now all his bonds were broken : he breathed a purer air ? 
and was able to say with confidence, £ The life I now live in 
the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and 
gave himself for me.' By means of this faith his soul was freed, 
and sin was put under his feet. Knowing in whom he had 
believed, he could triumph in the Lord, and praise the God of 
his salvation. 

1 1 . About this time Mr. Fletcher addressed an epistle to his 
brother, in which he gives a further description of the change 
that had taken place in his own mind, in the following words : 

" I speak from experience. I have been successively deluded 
by all those desires, which I here so sincerely reprobate ; and 
sometimes I have been the sport of them all at once. This 
will appear incredible, except to those who have discovered, 
that the heart of unregenerate man is nothing more than a 
chaos of obscurity, and a mass of contradictions. If you have 
any acquaintance with yourself, you will readily subscribe to this 
description of the human heart : and if you are without this 
acquaintance, then rest assured, my dear brother, that whatever 
your pursuit may be, you are as far from true happiness, as the 
most wretched of men. The meteor you are following still 
flies before you ; frequently it disappears, and never shows itself 
but to allure you to the brink of some unlooked-for precipice. 

" Every unconverted man must necessarily come under one 
or other of the following descriptions ; He is either a volup- 
tuary, a worldly-minded person, or a Pharisaical philosopher ; or, 
perhaps, like myself, he may be all of these at the same time : 
and, what is still more extraordinary, he may be so, not only 
without believing, but even without once suspecting it. Indeed, 
nothing is more common among men, than an entire blindness 
to their own real characters. How long have I placed my hap- 
piness in mere chimeras ! How often have I grounded my vain 
hopes upon imaginary foundations ? I have been constantly 
employed in framing designs for my own felicity ; but my dis- 



1HE Lift Oi 



appointments have been as frequent and various as my pro 
jects. In the midst of my idle reveries, how often have I said 
to myself, ' Drag thy weary feet but to the summit of yonder 
eminence, a situation beyond which the world has nothing to 
present more adequate to thy wishes, and there thou shalt sit 
down in a state of repose.' On my arrival, however, at the 
spot proposed, a sad discovery has taken place : — The whole 
scene has appeared more barren than the valley I had quitted ; 
and the point of happiness, which I lately imagined it possible 
to have touched with my finger, has presented itself at a greater 
distance than ever. 

" If hitherto, my dear brother, you have beguiled yourself 
with prospects of the same visionary nature, never expect to be 
more successful in your future pursuits. One labour will only 
succeed another, making way for continual discontent and 
chagrin. Open your heart, and there you will discover the 
source of that painful inquietude, to which, by your own con- 
fession, you have been long a prey. Examine its secret recesses, 
and you will discover there sufficient proofs of the following 
truths, — The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately 
wicked. All hare sinned and come short of the glory of God, 
The thoughts of man's heart are only evil, and that continually. 
The natural man under standeth not the things of the Spirit of 
God, On the discovery of these and other important truths, 
you will be convinced that man is an apostate being, composed 
of a sensual, rebellious body, and a soul immersed in pride, self- 
love, and ignorance : nay more, you will perceive it a physical 
impossibility, that man should ever become truly happy, till 
he is cast, as it were, into a new mould, and created a second 
time. 

" For my own part, when I first began to know myself. I saw, 
I felt that man is an undefinable animal, partly of a bestial, and 
partly of an infernal nature, — This discovery shocked my self- 
love, and filled me with the utmost horror. I endeavoured, for 
some time, to throw a jfalliating disguise over the wretchedness 
of my condition ; but the impression it had already made upon 
my heart was too deep to be erased. It was to no purpose that 



{ 

\ 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 37 

I reminded myself of the morality of my conduct. It was in 
vain, that I recollected the many encomiums that had been 
passed upon my early piety and virtue. And it was to little 
avail, that I sought to cast a mist before my eyes by reasonings 
like these — If conversion implies a total change, who has been 
converted in these days ? Why dost thou imagine thyself worse 
than thou really art? Thou art a believer in God, and in 
Christ : thou art a Christian : thou hast injured no person ; thou 
art neither a drunkard nor an adulterer : thou hast discharged 
thy duties, not only in a general way, but with more than ordi- 
nary exactness : thou art a strict attendant at church : thou art 
accustomed to pray more regularly than others, and frequently 
with a good degree of fervour. Make thyself perfectly easy. 
Moreover, Jesus Christ has suffered for thy sins, and his merit 
will supply every thing that is lacking on thy part. 

" It was by reasonings of this nature, that I endeavoured to 
conceal from myself the deplorable state of my heart : and I am 
ashamed, my dear brother ; I repeat i1s£ i am ashamed, that I 
suffered myself so long tft.be deluded by the* artifices of Satan f 
and the devices of my own heart. God himself has invited me, 
a cloud of apostles, prophets, and martyrs, have exhorted me, 
and my conscience, animated by those sparks of grace which 
are latent in every breast, has urged me to enter in at the strait 
gate, but, notwithstanding all this, a subtle tempter, a deluding 
world, and a deceived heart, have cdnstantly turned the balance, 
for above these twenty years, in favour of the broad way. I have 
passed the most Jovely part of my life in the service of these 
tyrannical masters, and am ready to declare, in the face of the 
universe, that all my reward has consisted in disquietude and, 
remorse. Happy had I been if I had listened to the earliest 
invitations of grace, and broken their iron yoke from off 
my neck!" 

12. From this time his hopes and fears, his desires and pur- 
suits, were totally changed.* From the heights of self-exalta- 
tion, he sunk into the depths of self-abhorrence : and from 



* Gilpin's Note?. 



! 



38 THE LIFE OF 

shining in the foremost ranks of the virtuous, he placed himself 
on a level with the chief of sinners. Conviction made way for 
unfeigned repentance, and repentance laid a solid foundation for 
Christian piety. His sorrow for sin was succeeded by a consci- 
ousness of the Almighty's favour, and the pangs of remorse 
gave way to the joys of remission. Believing on Jesus, as the 
Scripture hath said, he found in him a well of consolation spring- 
ing up into everlasting life. All his wanderings were, at once, 
happily terminated, his doubts were removed, his tears were dried 
up, and he began to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. His 
conversion was not imaginary, but real. It not only influenced 
his sentiments but extended to his conduct. Whom he had 
found a Saviour, he determined to follow as a guide : and so 
unalterable was this determination, that from the very hour in 
which it was formed, it is not known that he ever cast a wishful 
look behind him. A cloud of witnesses are ready to testify, 
that from his earliest acquaintance with the truths of the Gospel, 
he continued to walk worthy of his high vocation, growing in 
grace, and adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all 
things. 

13. From this period of his life he became truly exemplary 
for Christian piety. He walked cheerfully, as well as valiantly, 
in the ways of God. He closely followed his Master, denying 
himself, and taking up his cross daily. And thinking he had not 
leisure in the day for the great work which he had in hand, he 
made it an invariable rule to sit up two whole nights in a week. 
These he dedicated to reading, meditation, and prayer, in order 
to enter more deeply into that communion with the Father and 
the Son, which was his delight. Meantime he lived entirely on 
vegetable food, and for some time on bread with milk and water. 
Indeed one reason of his doing this was, that being threatened 
with a consumption in his early days, he had been advised by a 
physician to live on vegetables, and he now the more readily 
Complied with the advice, because, by this mean, he avoided 
dining with the company at Mr. Hill's table. Mrs. Fletcher 
observes, that besides watching the two whole nights every 
week, just mentioned, his custom was never to sleep till he 



f 
{ 

\ 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 39 

could no longer keep awake, and that therefore he always took 
a candle and book with him to bed. This imprudence had 
once almost cost him his life, if the calamity had stopped there, 
which it is probable it would not. For one night, being over- 
come with sleep before he put out his candle, he dreamed that 
his curtain, pillow, and cap, were all on fire, but went out with- 
out doing him any harm. And truly so it was. For in the 
morning the curtain, pillow, and part of his cap, as also of the 
hymn-book, in which he had been reading, were found burnt. 
The hymn-book, in part burnt, Mrs. Fletcher has in her posses- 
sion now. Not a hair, however, of his head was singed. A 
wonderful proof this, indeed, of God's care of his people, and 
that his angel encampeth round about them that fear him. 

" None can doubt," as Mr. Wesley observes, " whether these 
austerities were well intended. But it seems, they were not 
well judged. It is probable they gave the first wound to an 
excellent constitution, and laid the foundation of many infirmi- 
ties, which nothing but death could cure." Indeed he seems 
afterward to have been fully apprized of his error in this 
reSpect, remarking once to Mrs. Fletcher, when conversing 
with her about mortification, that if he had that time to spend 
again, he would not act in the same manner either with regard 
to meat or sleep. " I have sometimes observed," added he 
*f. that when the body is brought low, Satan gains an advantage 
over the soul. It is certainly our duty to take all the care we 
can of our health. But, at that time, I did not seem to feel the 
want of the sleep I deprived myself of." 



10 THE LIFE OF 



CHAPTER III. 

From his Contusion to his taking Orders, and entering upon 
the Work of the Ministry. 

t . It was not long after he had himself felt the powers of the 
world to come, that he was pressed in spirit to exhort others to 
seek after the same blessing. And he was the more strongly 
excited to this, by seeing the world all around him lying in ztnck- 
ed?iess. Being deeply sensible of the goodness of God on the one 
hand, and of the misery of mankind on the other, he found an 
earnest longing 

" To pluck poor brands out of the fire, 

To snatch them from the verge of hell. 1 ' 

This he began to do a considerable time before he was 
admitted into holy orders. And even his first labours of love 
were far from being in vain. For though he was by no means 
perfect in the English tongue, particularly with regard to the 
pronunciation of it ; yet the earnestness with which he spoke, 
(seldom to be found in English preachers) and the unspeakably 
tender affection to the poor, undone sinners, which breathed in 
every word and gesture, drew multitudes of people to hear him; 
and by the blessing of God, his word made so deep an impres- 
sion on their hearts, that very few went empty away. 

2. From this time, till he took the direct care of souls, he 
used to be in London during the sitting of the Parliament, and 
the rest of the year at Tern-hall, (as it was then called) instruct- 
ing the young gentlemen. Every Sunday, when in the country, 
he attended the parish church at Atcham. But when the ser= 
vice was ended, instead of going home in the coach, which was 
always ready, he usually took a solitary walk by the Sevens 
side, and spent some time in meditation and prayer. A pious 
domestic of Mr. Hill, having frequently observed him, one Sun- 
day desired leave to walk with him, which he constantly did 



THE REV, JOHN FLETCHER. 



41 



from that time. The account which he (Mr. Vaughan lately 
living in London) gave of Mr. Fletcher, when Mr. Wesley's 
edition of his life was published, is as follows : " It was our 
ordinary custom, when the church service was over, to retire 
into the most lonely fields or meadows, where we frequently 
either kneeled down, or prostrated ourselves upon the ground. 
At those happy seasons I was a witness of such pleadings and 
wrestlings with God, such exercises of faith and love, as I have 
not known in any one ever since. The consolations which we 
then received from God, induced us to appoint two or three 
nights in the week, when we duly met, after his pupils were 
asleep. We met also constantly on Sundays, between four and 
five in the morning. Sometimes I stepped into his study on 
other days. I rarely saw any book before him, besides 
the Bible and Christian Pattern. And he was seldom in any 
other company, unless when necessary business required, besides 
that of the unworthy writer of this paper. 

3. u When he was in the country, he used to visit an officer 
of Excise, at Atcham to be instructed in singing. On my de- 
siring him to give me some account of what he recollected con- 
cerning Mr. Fletcher, he answered thus : ' As to that man of 
God, Mr. Fletcher, it is but little that I remember of him ; it 
being above nine and twenty years since the last time I saw him. 
But this I well remember, his conversation with me was always 
sweet and savoury. He was too wise to suffer any of his pre- 
cious moments to be trifled away. When there was company 
to dine at Mr. Hill's, he frequently retired into the garden, and 
contentedly dined on a piece of bread, and a few bunches of 
currants. — Indeed, in his whole manner of living, he was a pat- 
tern of abstemiousness. Meantime, how great was his sweet- 
ness of temper and heavenly-mindedness ! I never saw it 
equalled in any one. How often, when I parted with him at 
Tern-hall, have his eyes and hands been lifted up to heaven, to 
implore a blessing upon me, with fervour and devoutness un- 
equalled by any I ever saw ! 1 firmly believe he has not left 
in this land, or perhaps in any other, one luminary like himself* 
I conclude, wishing this light may so be held up. that many 

6 



42 



THE LIFE OF 



may see the glory thereof, and be transformed into its like 
hess. May you and I, and all that love the Lord Jesus 
Christ, be partakers of that holiness, which was so conspicuous 
in him P 

4. " Our interviews for singing and conversation, (continues 
Mr. Vaughan, who was often present on these occasions,) were- 
seldom concluded without prayer. In which we were frequent- 
ly joined by her who is now my wife, (then a servant in the fa- 
mily,) as likewise by a poor widow in the village, who had 
also known the power of God unto salvation, and who died 
some years since, praising God with her latest breath. These 
were the only persons in the country, whom he chose for his 
familiar friends. But he sometimes walked over to Shrews- 
bury, to see Mrs. Glynne, or Mr. Appleton : (who likewise now 
rests from his labours, after having many years adorned the 
Gospel.) He also visited any of the poor in the neighbour- 
hood, that were upon sick beds; and when no other person 
could be procured, performed even the meanest offices for 
them." 

5. About this time his father died, as appears by the fol- 
lowing letter, addressed to Mr. Richard Edwards of London, 
to whose care, as a leader, he was committed, when he was 
first received into the Methodist Society in London. It is 
dated Tern, October 19, 1756, 

" Dearest Brother, 
" This is to let you know, that (praised be the Lord.) I am 
very well in body, and pretty well in soul : — But I have very 
few friends here, and God has been pleased to take away 
the chief of those few by a most comfortable death. And 
lately I heard that my aged father is gone the way of all 
flesh : but the glorious circumstances of his death make me 
ample amends for the sorrow which I felt. For some yeare 
I have written to him with as much freedom as I could have 
done to a son, though not with so much effect as I wished. 
But last spring God visited him with a severe illness, which 
(brought him to a sense of himself. And after a deep re 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



43 



pentance, he died about a month ago in the full assurance of 
faith. This has put several of my friends on thinking se- 
riously, which affords me great cause of thankfulness. I am 
your unworthy Brother and servant in the Lord, 

John Fletcher.'' 

6. During the early part of his residence in England, it is 
uncertain whether he entertained any thoughts of entering into 
holy orders, though he diligently prosecuted those studies 
which are generally regarded as preparatory to such a step* 
It is most probable, that he had formed no design of this na- 
ture, till this, the second year of his continuance at Tern-halL 
in Shropshire ; when he became acquainted with the power of 
true religion, and experienced that important change of hearty 
which has been before described. Receiving at that time an 
inestimable talent from the hand of God, he resolved, like a 
wise and faithful servant, to neglect nothing that might conduce 
to the due improvement of it ; and from that period it became 
his grand inquiry, What shall I render unto the Lord for all the, 
benefits that he hath done unto me ! No service appeared too 
laborious to be undertaken, nor any sacrifice too valuable 
to be offered in return, for the signal favours conferred upon 
him. 

7. But what service could he render, or what sacrifice could 
he offer, that might be acceptable to the God who had done so 
great things for him ? The holy ministry, indeed, appeared to 
open before him a passage to the most important labours ; and 
an entire consecration of his united powers to this momentous 
work, he considered as the richest oblation he could make to 
the Father of mercies. But a variety of fears respecting his 
own unworthiness, prevented him from immediately offering 
this sacrifice, or hastily entering upon this work. He trembled 
at the idea of running before he was sent, and dreaded en< 
gaging in a warfare at his own cost. He believed himself un- 
furnished for the duties of the office to which he aspired. And 
though he considered the inclination of his heart as an internal 
call to the service of the church, yet he judged it necessary to 



44 



THE LIFE OF 



tarry till that call should be confirmed, if not by some pro- 
vidential opening, at least by the approbation of his Christian 
friends. 

8. The Rev. Mr. Wesley was one, whom, among others, he 
consulted on this occasion. To him he now addressed the fol- 
lowing letter : 

" Rev. Sir, Tern, Nov. 24, 1756. 

" As I look upon you as my spiritual guide, and cannot doubt 
of your patience to hear, and your experience to answer a ques- 
tion proposed by one of your people, I freely lay my case be- 
fore you. Since I came to England I have been called out- 
wardly three times to go into orders ; but upon praying to God, 
that if those calls were not from him, they might come to 
nothing, something always blasted the designs of my friends; 
and in this I have often admired the goodness of God, who 
prevented my rushing into that important pmplojmcnt, as the 
horse into the battle. I never was so thankful for this favour, 
as I have been since I heard the Gospel in its purity. Before 
I was afraid, but now 1 trembled to meddle with holy things ; 
and resolved to work out my salvation privately, without en- 
gaging in a way of life, which required so much more grace and 
gifts than I was conscious I possessed. Yet from time to time, 
I felt warm and strong desires to cast myself and my inability 
on the Lord, if I should be called any more, knowing that he 
could help me, and show his strength in my weakness : and 
these desires were increased, by some little success, which at- 
tended my exhortations and letters to my friends. 

" I think it necessary to let you know, Sir, that my patron 
often desired me to take orders, and said he would soon help 
me to a living ; to which I coldly answered, I was not fit, and 
that besides, I did not know how to get a title. Things were 
in that state, when about six weeks ago, a gentleman whom I 
hardly knew, offered me a living, which in all probability, will 
be vacant soon ; and a clergyman I never spoke to, gave me of 
his own accord, the title of curate to one of his livings. Now, 
Sir, the question which I beg you to decide is, Whether I must 



* 



THE REV. JOHN tftETCHER. 4p 

and can make use of that title to get into orders ? For with 
irespect to the living, were it vacant, I have no mind to it ; 
because I think I could preach with more fruit in my native 
country, and in my own tongue. 

" I am in suspense : on one side, my heart tells me I must 
try, and tells me so, whenever I feel any degree of the love of 
God and man ; on the other, when I examine whether I am fit 
for it, I so plainly see my want of gifts, and especially, of that 
soul of all the labours of a minister, love, continual, universal, 
flaming love, that my confidence disappears : I accuse myself 
of pride to dare to entertain the desire of supporting one day 
the ark of God, and conclude that an extraordinary punishment 
will, sooner or later, overtake my rashnesss. As I am in both 
of these frames successively, I must own, Sir, I do not see which 
of these two ways before me, I can take with safety ; and shall 
gladly be ruled by you ; because, I trust God will direct you in 
giving me the advice you think will best conduce to his glory, 
which is the only thing I would have in view in this affair. 
I know how precious your time is, and desire no long answer : — 
Persist, or Forbear, will satisfy and influence, Rev. Sir, your 
unworthy servant, 

J. F." 

9. We are not informed what answer Mr. Wesley returned 
to this letter. We can have no doubt, however, but that he 
encouraged him to proceed in his design ; and that Mr. Gilpin 
is perfectly right when he observes, that " a discovery of his 
sentiments was no sooner made, but many honourable elders in 
the household of God, who had discernment enough to distin- 
guish the grace that was in him, and how admirably he was 
fitted for the work of an evangelist, rejoiced over him as a faith- 
ful labourer already hired into the vineyard of Christ. They 
not only ratified his internal call to the holy ministry, by their 
unanimous approbation, but earnestly solicited him to obey that 
call without any farther delay. Meanwhile the word of the Lord 
was as fire in his bones, ever struggling for vent 5 and not unfre- 



46 



THE LIFE OF 



quently breaking forth, as occasion offered, in public reprooi, 
exhortation, and prayer. 

10. " In this state he continued for about the space of two 
years, not wholly determined what course he should pursue, but 
patiently waiting to hear what the Lord God would say con- 
cerning him. And during this season, he was much occupied 
in making a diligent preparation for the service of the altar, 
that, if ever he should be called to so honourable an employ- 
ment, he might go forth throughly furnished to every good work. 
The chief objects of his pursuit were sacred knowledge and 
Christian purity ; in both of which he made an uncommon pro- 
ficiency, surpassing many who had studied for that knowledge, 
and struggled for that purity, through the greater part of their 
life. By his private exercises he was fitted for public labours, 
and by the holy discipline, to which he submitted himself with- 
out any reserve, he was trained to spiritual eminence in the 
school of Christ. To those who perfectly knew him in this 
state of retirement, he appeared as a polished shaft, hid indeed 
for a season in the quiver of his Lord, yet ready for immediate 
service, and prepared to rly in any appointed direction. 

11. ''He was not without promises of preferment in the 
church : but these served rather to retard, than to hasten his 
entrance into it. Having a sacrifice to perform, and not a for- 
tune to secure, he was fearful lest his intention should be de- 
based by views of an interested nature. At length, his humble 
reluctance was overcome, and, after the most mature delibera- 
tion, he solemnly determined to offer himself a candidate for 
holy orders. And to this solemn determination he was urged 
by the increasing force of two powerful motives, gratitude and 
benevolence ; gratitude to God impelled him to declare the name 
of his great Benefactor, and bear public testimony to the word 
of his grace ; while benevolence towards his fellow creatures 
incited him to spend and be spent, in promoting their best 
interests. — Constrained by these sacred motives, he publicly 
dedicated himself to the work of the holy ministry in the year 
1 757, when he received deacon's orders on Sunday, March the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



43 



sixth, and priest's orders on the following Sunday, from the 
hands of the bishop of Bangor, in the Chapel Royal at 
St. James's. 

12. " The same day that he was ordained a priest," says Mr. 
Wesley, "being informed that I had no one to assist me at 
West-street chapel, he came away as soon as ever the ordina- 
tion was over, and assisted me in the administration of the 
Lord's Supper. He was now doubly diligent in preaching, not 
only in the chapels at West-street and Spitalfields, but wherever 
the providence of God opened a door to proclaim the everlast- 
ing Gospel. This he frequently did, not only in English, but 
likewise in French, his native language : of which he was 
allowed by all competent judges to be a complete master." 

1 3. The following letter, written to Mr. Wesley soon after 
his taking orders, manifests what a mean opinion he then had of 
himself both with respect to his grace and gifts. It is dated 
London, May 26, 1757. 

" Rev. Sir, 

" If I did not write to you before Mrs. Wesley had asked me ? 
it was not that I wanted a remembrancer within, but rather an 
encourager without. There is generally upon my heart such a 
sense of my unworthiness, that I sometimes dare hardly open 
my mouth before a child of God ; and think it an unspeakable 
honour to stand before one, who has recovered something of the 
image of God, or sincerely seeks after it. Is it possible that 
such a sinful worm as I should have the privilege to converse 
with one, whose soul is sprinkled with the blood of my Lord ! 
The thought amazes, confounds me, and fills my eyes with tears 
of humble joy. Judge, then, at what distance I must see 
myself from you, if I am so much below the least of your chil- 
dren : and whether a remembrancer within suffices to make me 
presume to write to you, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. 

" I rejoice that you find every where an increase of praying 
souls. I doubt not but the prayer of the righteous hath great 
power with God ; and cannot but believe, that it must tend to 
promote the fulfilling, of Christ's gracious promises to his church. 



18 



THE LIFE OF 



He must, and certainly will come at the time appointed ; for he 
is not slack, as some men count slackness ; and although he 
would have all to come to repentance, yet he has not forgot to 
be true and just. Only he will come with more mercy, and 
will increase the light that shall be at evening-tide, according to 
his promise in Zech. xiv. 7. I should rather think, that the 
visions are not yet plainly disclosed : and that the day and year, 
in which the Lord will begin to make bare his arm openly, are 
still concealed from us. 

" I must say of Mr. Walsh, as he once said to me concerning 
God, ' I wish I could attend him every where, as Elisha did 
Elijah.'' But since the will of God calls me from him. I must 
submit, and drink the cup prepared for me. I have not seen 
him, unless for a few moments, three or four times before divine 
service. — We must meet at the throne of grace, or meet but 
seldom. O when will the communion of saints be complete ! 
Lord, hasten the time, and let me have a place among them 
that love thee, and love one another in sincerity. 

" I set out in two days for the country. O may I be faithful ! 
harmless like a dove, wise like a serpent, and bold as a lion for 
the common cause ! O Lord, do not forsake me ! Stand by the 
weakest of thy servants, and enable thy children to bear with 
me, and wrestle with thee in my behalf. O bear with me, dear 
Sir, and give me your blessing every day, and the Lord will 
return it to you seven-fold. 1 am, Rev. and dear Sir, your 
unworthy servant, 

J. F." 

14. In less than three weeks, it seems, from the time of his 
going into the country, he had an opportunity of preaching. 
This, according to Mr. Vaughan, quoted by Mr, Wesley, was 
on the 19th of June following. " His text was James iv. 4. 
(a very bold beginning!) Ye adulterers and adulteresses, knozo 
ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity against God ? 
The congregation stood amazed, and gazed upon him as if ha 
had been a monster. But to me he appeared as a messeng- 1 
sent from heaven." 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



49 



"It was not soon," proceeds Mr. V. " that he was invited 
again to preach in Atcham church. But he was invited to 
preach in several other churches in the neighbourhood ; as at 
Wroxeter, and afterward at the Abbey church in Shrewsbury, 
having preached twice before in St. Alkmonds in that town. 
But not being yet perfect in the English tongue, he wrote down 
all the sermons he delivered in churches. But I doubt whether 
he preached above six times in the six months which he spent 
in the country. On my telling him, I wished he had more op- 
portunities of preaching in this unenlightened part of the land_, 
he answered, ' The will of God be done : I am in his hands. 
And if he do not call me to so much public duty, I have the 
more time for study, prayer, and praise.' 13 

15. On this subject he signified his mind in the following letter ; 
written at this time to his friend Mr. Edwards before mentioned. 

" I thank you for your encouraging observations ; I want 
them, and use them by the grace of God. When I received 
your's I had not had one opportunity of preaching : so incensed 
were all the clergy against me. One, however, let me have the 
use of his church, the Abbey church at Shrewsbury. I preached 
in the forenoon with some degree of the demonstration of the 
Spirit. The congregation was very numerous : and I believe 
one half, at least, desired to hear me again. But the minister 
would not let me have the pulpit any more. The next Sunday 
the minister of a neighbouring parish lying a dying, I was sent 
for to officiate for him. He died a few days after, and the chief 
man in the parish offered to make interest that I might succeed 
him. But I could not consent. The next Sunday I preached 
at Shrewsbury again, but in another church. The next day I 
set out for Bristol, and was much refreshed among the bre- 
thren. As I returned, I called at New-Kingswood, about sixteen 
miles from Bristol. The minister offering me his church, I 
preached to a numerous congregation, gathered on half an 
hour's notice. I think the seed then sown will not be lost." 

16. In the spring of this year (1758) we find him in London, 
from whence he wrote as follows, to Mrs. Glynne, of Shrews- 
bury, the pious lady of his acquaintance before mentioned. His 



so 



THE LIFE OF 



letter is dated April 1 8, and is here inserted to show the state of 
his mind at this time. 

" Madam, 

" As it is never too late to do what multiplicity of business, 
rather than forgetfulness, has forced us to defer, I am not 
ashamed, though after some months, to use the liberty you gave 
me, to inquire after the welfare of your soul ; and that so much 
the more, as I am conscious I have not forgotten you at the 
throne of grace. O may my petitions have reached heaven, 
and forced from thence, at least, some drops of those spiritual 
showers of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost 
which I implore for you. 

u Though I trust the unction from above teaches you all 
things needful to salvation, and especially the necessity of con- 
tinuing instant in prayer, and watching thereunto with all per- 
severance ; yet, I think it my duty, to endeavour to add wing? 
to your desires after holiness, by enforcing them with mine. O 
were I but clothed with all the righteousness of Christ, my 
prayers would avail much ; and the lukewarmness of my bre- 
thren would not increase my guilt, as being myself an instance oi 
that coldness of love, which puts me upon interceding for them. 

" Though I speak of lukewarmness, I do not accuse you. 
Madam, of having given way to it ; on the contrary, it is my 
duty, and the joy of my heart, to hope, that you stir up more 
and more the gift of God, which is in you ; that the evidences oi 
your interest in a bleeding Lord become clearer every day; 
that the love of Christ constrains you more and more to deny 
yourself, take up your cross in all things, and follow him 
patiently, through bad and good report : in a word, that con- 
tinually having the things which are behind, you stretch forivard. 
through sunshine or darkness, toward the prize of your high call- 
ing in Jesus Christ, — I mean a heart emptied of pride, and filed 
with all the fulness of God. 

" I have often thought of you, Madam, in reading the letters 
of a lady,* who was a Christian, and an eminent Christian, not 

'•• Mrs. Lefevre, 



f 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



5 1 



to say one of the brightest lights that God has raised since the 
late revival of godliness. The reproach of Christ was hev 
crown of rejoicing, his cross her continual support, his followers 
her nearest companions, his example the pattern of her conversa- 
tion. She lived a saint, and died an angel. Each one of her 
letters may be a pattern for Christian correspondents, by the 
simplicity, edification, and love, they breathe in every line. O 
when shall I write as she did ! When my heart shall be as full 
of God as her's was. 

"May the Lord enable you to walk in her steps, and 
grant me to see you shining among the humble loving Maries 
of this age, as she did but a few months ago. Her God is our 
God : the same Spirit that animated her is waiting at the door 
of our hearts, to cleanse them and fill them with his conso- 
lations, if we will but exclude the world, and let him in. 
Why should we then give way to despondency, and refuse to 
cherish that lively hope, which if any one has, he will purify 
himself even as God is pure? Take courage then, Madam, 
and consider, that the hour of self-denial and painful wrest- 
ling with God, will be short, and the time of victorious recom- 
pense as long as eternity itself. — May the Lord enable you and 
me to consider this well, and to act accordingly; 

" I conclude, by commending you to the Lord, and to the 
word of his grace, and recommending myself to your prayers. 
I am, Madam, your obedient servant for Christ's sake, 

J. F » 

17. This year there were many French prisoners on their 
parole, at Tunbridge. Mr. Fletcher being desired to preach 
to them in their own language, he readily complied. Many 
of them appeared to be deeply affected, and earnestly re- 
quested that he would preach to them every Lord's day. 
But some advised them first, to present a petition to the 
bishop of London for leave. They did so, and (who would 
believe it ?) the good bishop peremptorily rejected their pe 
tition! An odd incident followed. A few months after, the 
fcishop died of a cancer in his mouth. " Perhaps," says Mr* 



52 



THE LIFE OT 



Wesley, " some may think this was a just retribution for silen- 
cing such a prophet on such an occasion ! I am not ashamed 
to acknowledge this is my own sentiment ; and I do not think 
it any breach of charity to suppose, that an action so unworthy 
of a Christian bishop had its punishment in this world." 

When he returned from London, in the same year, he 
was more frequently invited to preach in several of the neigh- 
bouring churches. And before his quitting the country, he 
gave his friend a few printed papers to distribute, entitled, 
" A Christmas-box for Journeymen and Apprentices." This is 
mentioned the rather, because it is supposed it was the first thing 
which he ever published. 

18. In the spring of the next year he was again in London, 
and in the same humble and self-diffident state of mind, as 
appears by the following short extracts from three of his 
letters to the Rev. Charles Wesley. The first is dated March 
22, 1759. 

" My dear Sir, 

" You left me without permitting me to say, Farewell ; but 
that shall not hinder me from wishing you a good journey, and 
I flatter myself, that you are in the habit of returning my 
prayers. 

" Since your departure, I have lived more than ever like a 
hermit. It seems to me that I am an unprofitable weight upon 
the earth. I want to hide myself from all. I tremble when 
the Lord favours me with a sight of myself; I tremble to 
think of preaching only to dishonour God. To-morrow I 
preach at West-street with all the feelings of Jonah : O would 
to God I might be attended with success ! If the Lord shall, 
in any degree, sustain my weakness, I shall consider myself 
as indebted to your prayers. 

A proposal has lately been made to me, to accompany Mr. 
Nathaniel Gilbert to the West-Indies. I have weighed the 
matter ; but on one hand I feel that I have neither sufficient 
zeal, nor grace, nor talents, to expose myself to the tempta- 
tions and labours of a mission in the West-Indies; and on 



THE REV. 40HN FLETCHER. 



the other, I believe, that if God call me thither, the time is not 
yet come. I wish to be certain that I am converted myself, 
before I leave my converted brethren to convert heathens. 
Pray let me know what you think of this business ; if you con- 
demn me to put the sea between us, the command would be a 
hard one ; but I might, possibly, prevail on myself to give you 
that proof of the deference I pay to your judicious advice. 

" I have taken possession of my little hired chamber. There- 
I have outward peace, and I wait for that which is within. I was 
this morning with Lady Huntingdon, who salutes you, and unites 
with me to say, that we have need of you to make one in our 
threefold cord, and to beg you will hasten your return, when 
Providence permits. Our conversation was deep, and full of 
the energy of faith on the part of the Countess ; as to me, I sat 
like Saul at the feet of Gamaliel. 

J. Fletcher." 

The second was written in April following, and in this his 
words are, " With an heart bowed down with grief, and eyes 
bathed with tears, occasioned by our late heavy loss, I mean the 
death of Mr. Walsh, I take my pen to pray you to intercede for 
me. What ! that sincere, laborious, and zealous servant of God ! 
Was he saved only as by fire, and was not his prayer heard till 
the twelfth hour was just expiring ? O where shall I appear, I 
who am an unprofitable servant ! Would to God my eyes were 
fountains of water to weep for my sins ! Would to God I might 
pass the rest of my days in crying, Lord, have mercy upon me ! 
All is vanity — grace, talents, labours, if we compare them with 
the mighty stride we have to take from time into eternity! 
Lord, remember me nozo thou art in thy kingdom ! 

" I have preached and administered the sacrament at West- 
street sometimes in the holidays. May God water the poor 
seed I have sown, and give it fruitfulness, though it be only 
in one soul ! 

" I have lately seen so much weakness in my heart, both as a 
minister and a Christian, that I know not which is most to be 
pitied, the man, the believer, or the preacher. Could L 



54 



THE LIFE OF 



at last, be truly humbled, and continue so always, I should esteem 
myself happy in making this discovery. I preach merely to 
keep the chapel open, until God shall send a workman after 
his own heart, Nos numeri sumus ;* this is almost all I can say 
of myself. If I did not know myself a little better than 1 did 
formerly, I should tell you that 1 had ceased altogether from 
placing any confidence in my repentances, &x. &x. but I see 
my heart is so full of deceit, that I cannot depend on my know- 
ledge of myself. 

u The day Mr. W alsh died, the Lord gave our brethren the 
spirit of prayer and supplication ; and many unutterable groans 
were offered up for him at Spitalfields, where I was. Who 
shall render us the same kind office ? Is not our hour near ? 
O my God, when thou comest, prepare us, and we shall be 
ready ! You owe your children an elegy upon his death, and 
you cannot employ your poetic talents on a better subject. 

J. F." 

June 1st, he writes, " The Lord gives me health of body, 
and from time to time I feel strength in my soul. O when shall 
the witness (meaning himself) who is dead, arise ! When shall 
the Spirit enter into him, and fill him with wisdom, with power, 
and with love ! Pray for me, and support my weakness as much 
as you can. I am here Umbra pro corpore.t I preach as your 
substitute : come and fill worthily an office, of which I am 
unworthy. My pupils return to Cambridge on Monday, and 
the whole family sets out for Shropshire on the 11th. Shall I 
not see you before that time ? I have rejected the offer of 
Dr. Taylor, and have no other temptations than those of a bad 
heart. That is enough, you will say : I grant it ; but we must 
fight before we conquer. Pray that my courage may not fail. 
Come, and the Lord come with you ! I am, &c. 

J. F » 

19. Having returned from London to Tern-hall, and being 
now less frequently called to public duty, he enjoyed his beloved 

* I fill an empty space. + A shadow rather than a substance, 



THE REV. J6HN FLETCHER. 55 

retirement, giving himself up to study, meditation, and prayer, 
and walking closely with God. Indeed his whole life was now a 
life of prayer ; and so intensely was his mind fixed upon God, that 
he sometimes said, ' I would not move from my seat without 
lifting up my heart to God.' " Wherever we met," says Mr. 
Vaughan, " if we were alone, his first salute was, 6 Do I meet 
you praying V And if we were talking on any point of divinity, 
when we were in the depth of our discourse, he would often 
break off abruptly, and ask, 4 Where are our hearts now V If 
ever the misconduct of an absent person was mentioned, his 
usual reply was, ' Let us pray for him.' " 

20. It appears, however, that he was not without painful 
temptations of a spiritual nature, in this state of retirement. In 
a letter to the Rev. Charles Wesley, dated July 19, of the same 
year, he observes, " Instead of apologizing for my silence, I will 
simply relate the cause of it, referring you to the remembrance 
of your own temptations for that patience you must exercise 
towards a weak, tempted soul. Tins is the fourth summer that 
I have been brought hither, in a peculiar manner, to be tempted 
of the devil in a wilderness ; and I have improved so little by 
my- past exercises, that I have not defended myself better than 
in the first year. Being arrived here, I began to spend my time 
as I had determined, one part in prayer, and the other in medi- 
tation on the Holy Scriptures. The Lord blessed my devotions, 
and I advanced from conquering to conquer, leading every 
thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ; when it 
pleased God to show me some of the folds of my heart. As I 
looked for nothing less than such a discovery, I was extremely 
surprised ; so much so, as to forget Christ : you may judge 
already what was the consequence. A spiritual languor seized 
on all the powers of my soul ; and I suffered myself to be car- 
ried away quietly by a current, with the rapidity of which I was 
unacquainted. 

" Neither doubt nor despair troubled me for a moment : my 
temptation took another course. It appeared to me, that God 
would be much more glorified by my damnation, than my salva- 
tion. It seemed altogether incompatible with the holiness, the: 



THE LIFE OX 



justice, and the veracity of the Supreme Being, to admit so 
stubborn an offender into his presence. I could do nothing 
but stand astonished at the patience of God. 

" Yesterday, however, as I sang one of your hymns, the Lord 
lifted up my head, and commanded me to face my enemies. By 
his grace I am already conqueror, and I doubt not but I shall 
soon be more than conqueror. Although I deserve it not, 
nevertheless, hold up my hands till all these Amalekites be put 
to flight. I am, &c. 

J. F.** 

21. After his return to London, which was soon after, he still 
possessed the same spirit of contrition and self-abasement. 
I must here observe, however, that this spirit, however com- 
mendable in the general, and however essential to true Christi- 
anity, yet being carried to excess in his particular case, became, 
through the subtilty of Satan, a source of trial and discourage- 
ment to him. On the 14th of September he writes to the same 
faithful and intimate friend, as follows : 

" My dear Sir, 

" Your last lines drew tears from my eyes : I cannot wait till 
your death, to beseech you to give me that benediction of which 
you speak. I conjure you, in the name of Christ, to give it me. 
when you read these lines, and to repeat it as often as you 
think of a poor brother, who needs the prayers of every one. 
and who cannot part with yours. 

" I accept, with pleasure, the obliging proposal you make me 
for the approaching winter ; and I entreat you to consider it less 
as a proposal, than as an engagement into which you have 
entered, and of which I have a right to solicit the fulfilment. 
Permit me only to add to it one condition, which is to make our 
reading, &c. tend, as much as possible, to that poverty of spirit- 
which I so greatly need. 

" A few days ago, the Lord gave me two or three lessons on 
the subject of poverty of spirit, but alas ! how have I forgotten 
them ! I saw, I felt, that I was entirely void of wisdom and 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



*>7 



virtue. I was ashamed of myself, and I could say with a degree 
of feeling, which I cannot describe, Nil ago, nil habeo, sum nil ; 
in pulvere serpo.* I could then say, what Gregory Lopez was 
enabled to say at all times, ' There is no man of whom I have 
not a better opinion than of myself.' I could have placed myself 
under the feet of the most atrocious sinner, and have acknow- 
ledged him for a saint in comparison of myself. If ever I am 
humble and patient, if ever I enjoy solid peace of mind, it must 
be in this very spirit. Ah ! why do I not actually find these 
virtues ? Because I am filled with self-sufficiency, and am pos- 
sessed by that self-esteem, which blinds me, and hinders me 
from doing justice to my own demerits. O ! pray that the 
Spirit of Jesus may remove these scales from my eyes for ever, 
and compel me to retire into my own nothingness. 

" To what a monstrous idea had you well nigh given birth ! 
What ! the labours of my ministry under you deserve a salary ! 
Alas ! I have done nothing but dishonour God hitherto, and am 
not in a condition to do any thing else for the future ! If then 
I am permitted to stand in the courts of the Lord's house, is it 
not for me to make an acknowledgment, rather than to receive 
one ? If I ever receive any thing of the Methodist Church, it 
shall be only as an indigent mendicant receives alms, without 
which he would perish. 

?' I have great need of your advice relative to the letters which 
I receive one after another from my relations, who unite in their 
invitations to me, to return to my own country : one says, to 
settle my affairs there ; another, to preach there ; a third, to assist 
him to die, &c. They press me to declare whether I renounce 
my family, and the demands I have upon it ; and my mother de- 
sires that I will at least go and see her ; and commands me to 
do so in the strongest terms. What answer shall I make ? If 
she thought as you do, I should write to her, c Ubi Christiani, 
ibi patria ;t' ' My mother, my brethren, my sisters, are those 
who do the will of my heavenly Father :' but she is not in a 

" I do nothing, have nothing, am nothing ; I crawl in the dust, 
t Where the Christians are, there is my Gountry 
8 



THE LIFE OF 



state of mind to digest such an answer : a mother is a mother 
long. On the other hand, I have no inclination to yield 
to their desires, which appear to me merely iiatural ; for 
I shall lose precious time, and incur expense : my presence is 
not absolutely necessary to my concerns ; and it is more proba- 
ble that my relations will pervert me to vanity and interest, than 
that I shall convert them to genuine Christianity 7 . Lastly, I shall 
have no opportunity to exercise my ministry. Our Swiss minis- 
ters, who preach only once a week, will not look upon me with 
a more favourable eye than the ministers here ; and irregular 
preaching is impracticable, and would only cause me either to 
be laid in prison, or immediately banished from the country. 

" How does your family do ? May the Almighty be your de- 
fence day and night ! What he protects is well protected. 
Permit me to thank you for the sentence from Kempis, with 
which you close your letter, by returning to you another — 
i You run no risk in considering yourself as the wickedest of 
men ; but you are in danger if you prefer yourself to any one.' 
I am, <kc." 

J. F. ' 



22. With respect to the salary that had been offered him, a 
few weeks after he says, " I fear you did not rightly understand 
what I wrote about the proposal you made me at London. So 
far from making conditions, I feel myself unworthy of receiving 
them. Be it what it may, I thank God that I trouble myself 
with no temporal things : my only fear is that of having too 
much, rather than too little, of the things necessary for life. I 
am weary of abundance. I could wish to be poor with my Sa- 
viour ; and those whom he hath chosen to be rich in faith, ap- 
pear to me objects of envy in the midst of their wants. Happy 
should I be if a secret pride of heart did not disguise itself 
under these appearances of humility ! Happy should I be, if 
that dangerous serpent did not conceal himself under these 
sweet flowers, and feed on their juices." 

The following paragraphs of the same letter seem to deserv e 
a place here, as they manifest still further the lowly state of hi? 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



59 



mind, and his views of some important branches of experimen- 
tal religion in this early stage of his Christian course. " Your 
silence began to make me uneasy, and your letter had well nigh 
made me draw my pen over one I had written to ask the cause 
of it. The Lord afflicts you ; that is enough to silence every 
complaint ; and I will not open my mouth, except it be to pray 
the Lord to enable you and yours to bring forth those fruits of 
righteousness, which attend the trials of his children. Take 
care of yourself for the sake of the Lord's little flock, and for 
me, who, with all the impatience of brotherly love, count every 
day till I can have the pleasure of embracing you. 

" If I know any thing of true brotherly love, which I often 
doubt, it agrees perfectly well with the love of God, as the sounds 
of the different parts in music agree with each other. Their 
union arises from their just difference, and they please so much 
the more as they appear the more opposed. The opposition of 
sentiments between divine and brotherly love, together with the 
subordination of the latter, forms that delightful combat in the 
soul of a believer, termed by the apostle the being divided be- 
tween two, which concludes with a sacrifice of resignation, such 
as the natural man is incapable of. Your expression, 4 Spread 
the moral sense all o'er,'* gives me an idea of that charity which 
I seek. The love of Gregory Lopez appears to me to have 
been too stoical.} I do not discover in it that vehement desire, 
those tears of love, that ardour of seeing and possessing each 
other in the bowels of Jesus Christ, which I find so frequently 
in the epistles of St. Paul. If this sensibility be a failing, I do not 
wish to be exempt from it. What is your opinion ? 

* Alluding to a verse of that fine hymn, 
" I want a principle within 
Of jealous godly fear," &c. 
which verSe appeared in the former editions of it, but was, i think, improperly 
omitted in our large Hymn-Book. See p. 297. 

t This is a just remark. The life of a hermit is not the life of a Christian, 
How much better do we answer the designs of our benevolent Master, whfO 
" Freely to all ourselves we give, 
Constraint by Jesu's love to live 
The servants of mankind." 



60 



THE LIFE OF 



"When I was reading Telemachus with my pupils, 1 Ma- 
struck with this expression — £ He blushed to have been born 
with so little feeling for men, and to appear to them so inhu- 
man." I easily applied the first part ; and the son of Ulysses 
gave me an example of Christian repentance, which I wish to 
follow till my heart is truly circumcised. Send me some reme- 
dy, or give me some advice against this hardness of heart under 
which I groan. What you say about reducing a mother to de- 
spair, has made me recollect what I have often thought, that the 
particular fault of the Swiss is to be without natural affection. 
With respect to that preference which my mother shows me 
above her other children, I see clearly that I am indebted for 
almost all the affection she expresses for me in her letters, to 
my absence from her, which hinders her from seeing my faults : 
and I reproach myself severely, that I cannot interest myself 
in her welfare as much as I did in that of my deceased father. 
I am, &c. 

J. F." 

23. The reader must not gupposc, however, that amidst the 
self-abasing thoughts which occupied his mind, and the contri- 
tion of spirit which he felt and manifested, he was devoid ot 
confidence in God, of peace and consolation. Two days after 
we find him expressing himself in the following delightful lan- 
guage, in a letter to two pious women : 

" My dear Sisters, 
" I have put off writing to you, lest the action of writing 
should divert my soul from the awful and delightful worship it is 
engaged in. But I now conclude I shall be no loser if I invite 
you to love Him my soul loveth, to dread Him my soul dread- 
eth, to adore Him my soul adoreth. Sink with me, or rather 
let me sink with you before the throne of grace; and while 
cherubim veil their faces, and cry out in tender fear and exqui- 
site trembling, Holy ! holy ! holy ! let us put our mouths in the 
dust, and echo back the solemn sound, Holy ! holy ! holy ! Let 
us plunge ourselves into that ocean of purity. Let us try to 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 61 

fathom the depths of divine mercy ; and, convinced of the im- 
possibility of such an attempt, let us lose ourselves in them. Let 
us be comprehended by God, if we cannot comprehend him. 
Let us be supremely happy in God. Let the intenseness of our 
happiness border on misery, because we can make him no re- 
turn. Let our heads become water, and our eyes fountains of 
tears — tears of humble repentance, of solemn joy, of silent ad- 
miration, of exalted adoration, of raptured desires, of inflamed 
transports, of speechless awe. My God, and my all! Your 
God and your all ! Our God, and our all ! Praise him ; and 
with our souls blended in one by divine love, let us with one 
mouth glorify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, — our Father, 
who is over all, through all, and in us all. 

" I charge you before the Lord Jesus Christ, who giveth life, 
and more abundant life ; I entreat you, by all the actings of faith, 
the exertions of hope, the flames of love you ever felt, sink to 
greater depths of self-abasing repentance, and rise to greater 
heights of Christ-exalting joy. And let him, who is able to do 
exceeding abundantly more than you can ask or think, carry on 
and fulfil in you the work of faith with power ; with that power 
whereby he subdueth all things to himself. Be steadfast in hope, 
immoveable in patience and love, always abounding in the out- 
ward and inward labour of love, and receive the end of your faith- 
the salvation of your souls. I am, &c. 

J. F.l 5 

24. Where Mr. Fletcher was, when he wrote the letter last 
quoted, is not certain ; it seems most probable, however, that he 
was at Tern. And if his friend, Mr. Vaughan, be right, it was 
about the close of this summer that he was frequently desired, 
sometimes to assist, at other times to perform the whole service 
for Mr. Chambers, then vicar of Madeley. On these occasions 
it was that he contracted such an affection for the people of 
Madeley, as nothing could hinder from increasing more and 
more to the day of his death. While he officiated at Madeley, 
as he still lived at the Hall, ten miles distant from it, a groom 
was ordered to get a horse ready for him every Sunday morning. 



62 



THE LIFE OF 



But so great was his aversion for giving trouble to any one, that 
if the groom did not awake at the time, he seldom would suffer 
him to be called, but prepared the horse for himself. 

25. On the 15th of November the same year, Mr. Fletcher" 
was again in London, where he had been at least eight or ten 
days. Here,. as it appears from one of his letters to Mr. Charles 
Wesley, the Countess of Huntingdon had proposed to him to 
celebrate the communion at her house sometimes in a morning, 
and to preach when occasion offered. This proposal was not 
meant, however, to restrain his liberty of preaching, where he 
might have an invitation, nor to prevent his assisting Mr. Wes- 
ley, or preaching to the French refugees ; but only to fill up 
his vacant time, till Providence should open a way for him else- 
where. 

" Charity, politeness, and reason," says Mr. Fletcher, " ac- 
companied her offer ; and I confess, in spite of the resolution 
which I had almost absolutely formed, to fly the houses of the 
great without even the exception of the Countess's, I found my- 
self so greatly changed, that I should have accepted on the spot 
a proposal, which I should have declined from any other mouth ; 
but my engagement with you (Mr. Charles Wesley) withheld 
me ; and thanking the Countess, I told her, when I had reflect- 
ed on her obliging offer, I would do myself the honour of wait- 
ing upon her again. 

" Nevertheless, two difficulties stand in my way. Will it be 
consistent with that poverty of spirit which I seek ? Can I ac- 
cept an office for which 1 have such small talents ? and shall I 
not dishonour the cause of God, by stammering out the mys- 
teries of the Gospel in a place where the most approved minis- 
ters of the Lord have preached with so much power and so 
much success ? I suspect that my own vanity gives more weight 
to this second objection than it deserves to have. What think 
you? 

" I give nryself to your judicious counsels. You take un- 
necessary pains to assure me that they are disinterested ; for I 
cannot doubt it. I feel myself unworthy of them ; much more 
still of the appellation of friend, with which you honour me. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



63 



You are an indulgent father to me, and the name of son suits 
me better than that of brother." 

26. He seems to have continued in London, assisting the 
Messrs. Wesleys, and preaching wherever he had a call, till the 
beginning of March following, on the first day of which he 
writes to Mr. Charles Wesley, from Dunstable. 

" The fine weather invites me to execute a design I had half 
formed, of making a forced march to spend next Sunday at 
Everton, Mr. Berridge's parish. There may the voice of the 
Lord be heard by a poor child of Adam, who, like him, is still 
behind the trees of his own stupidity and impenitence ! 

" If I do not lose myself across the fields before I get there, 
and if the Lord be pleased to grant me the spirit of supplica- 
tion, I will pray for you, and your dear sister at P — — , until I 
can again pray with you. Don't forget me, I beseech you. If 
the Lord bring me to your remembrance, cast your bread on 
the waters on my behalf, and perhaps you will find it again after 
many days. I would fain be with you on those solemn occa- 
sions, when a thousand voices are raised to heaven to obtain 
those graces which I have not ; but God's will be done. 

" Don't forget to present my respects to the Countess. If I 
continue any time at Everton, I shall take the liberty of giving 
her some account of the work of God in those parts ; if not, I 
will give it her in person.— Adieu. The Lord strengthen you 
in soul and body." 

27. Where or how Mr. Fletcher spent the spring and summer 
of this year, I believe we have no certain information. But in 
September following he was at Tern-hall, in Shropshire, from 
whence on the 26th he wrote to Lady Huntingdon, and gave 
the followiag account of his call to Madeley. 

" Last Sunday the vicar of Madeley, to whom I was formerly 
curate, coming to pay a visit here, expressed a great regard for 
me, seemed to be quite reconciled, and assured me that he 
would do all that was in his power to serve me ; of which he 
yesterday gave me a proof, by sending me a testimonial unasked. 
He was no sooner gone than news was brought that the old 
clergyman I mentioned to your Ladyship died suddenly the day 



64 



THE LIFE OF 



before ; and that same day, before I heard it, Mr. Hill meeting 
at the races his nephew, who is patron of Madeley, told him 
that if he would present me to Madeley, he would give the 
vicar of that parish the living vacated by the old clergyman's 
death. This was immediately agreed to, as Mr. Hill himself 
informed me in the evening, wishing me joy. This new pro- 
mise, the manner in which Mr. Hill forced me from London to 
be here at this time, and the kindness of the three ministers I 
mentioned, whose hearts seemed to be turned at this juncture 
to sign my testimonials for institution, are so many orders to be 
still, and wait till the door is quite open or shut. I beg, there- 
fore, your ladyship would present my respects and thanks to 
Lady Margaret and Mr. Ingham, and acquaint them with the 
necessity which these circumstances lay me under to follow the 
leadings of Providence." 

" This (adds he in a letter to Mr. Charles Wesley) is agree- 
able to the advice you have so repeatedly given me, not to 
resist Providence, but to follow its leadings. I am, however, 
inwardly in suspense ; my heart revolts at the idea of being 
here alone, opposed by my superiors, hated by my neighbours, 
and despised by all the world. Without piety, without talents, 
without resolution, how shall I repel the assaults, and surmount 
the obstacles which I foresee, if I discharge my duty at Madeley 
with fidelity ? On the other hand, to reject this presentation., 
to burn this certificate, and to leave in the desert the sheep 
whom the Lord has evidently brought me into the world to feed, 
appears to me nothing but obstinacy and refined self-love, i 
will hold a middle course between these extremes ; 1 will be 
wholly passive in the steps I must take, and active in praying the 
Lord to deliver me from the evil one, and to conduct me in the 
way he would have me to go. 

" If you see any thing better, inform me of it speedily ; and. 
at the same time, remember me in all your prayers, that if thi^ 
matter be not of the Lord, the enmity of the Bishop of Litch- 
field, who must countersign my testimonials : the threats of the 
chaplain of the Bishop of Hereford, who was a witness to my 
preaching at West-street ; the objections drawn from my no. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



being naturalized, or some other obstacle, may prevent the kind 
intentions of Mr. Hill. Adieu." 

28. Neither Mr. Charles nor Mr. John Wesley, nor it seems 
any of his other friends, to whom he communicated this business, 
offering any material objections, Mr. Fletcher accepted the pre- 
sentation to the vicarage of Madeley, in preference to another 
that was of double the value. He embraced it as his peculiar 
charge, the object of his most tender affection. And he was 
now at leisure to attend it, being fully discharged from his for- 
mer employment ; for his pupils were removed to Cambridge. 
The elder of them died about the time of his coming of age. 
The younger first represented the town of Salop (as his father 
had done) afterward the county ; till he took his seat in the 
House of Peers, as Baron Berwick, of Attingham-House. This 
is now the name that is given to what was formerly called 
Tern-Hall. 

— «$g\<» — 
CHAPTER IV. 

Of his Qualifications for, and Faithfulness in, the Work of the 
Ministry ; and of his Labours at Madeley, and elsewhere. 

i. "He who engages himself to fight the battles of the 
Lord," says the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, " has need of uncommon 
strength and irresistible arms ; and if he be destitute of one or 
the other, he vainly expects to stand in the evil day. The 
Christian warrior is exposed to a vast variety of dangers, and 
beset with innumerable enemies. His whole life is one con- 
tinued scene of warfare, in which he wrestles sometimes with 
visible, and at other times with invisible adversaries. — For the 
labours of this sacred warfare, no man ever esteemed himself 
less sufficient than Mr. Fletcher. He ever considered himself 
as the weakest of Christ's adherents, and unworthy to follow 
his glorious standard. But while he boasted no inherent strength, 
wld was ready to occupy the meanest post, he was regarded by 

9 



1 HE LIFE OF 



his brethren as a man peculiarly strong in the Lord, and m the 
power of his might. United to Christ, as the branch is united 
to the vine, he was constantly deriving abundant supplies of 
vigour from the fountain-head of power. And as the source of 
his strength was inexhaustible, so its operations were var ious 
and incessant. Now it was engaged in subduing sin ; and now, 
na labouring after that holiness, without which no man shall ste 
the Lord ; there it inspired the courage of the mighty, and here 
it sustained the burdens of the weak : at one time it was dis- 
covered by resolution and zeal ; at another, by resignation and 
fortitude : by the former, this man of God was enabled to grap- 
ple with his strongest enemy ; by the latter, he was taught to 
endicre hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 
£ 2. " Mr. Fletcher's arms were equal to his strength, and 
served to make him truly invincible in the cause of godliness. 
From his first admission into the true church militant, he was 
fully persuaded, that armour forged by the art of man must 
needs be insufficient, cither for conquest or security, in a spiritual 
warfare. He saw it absolutely necessary to be furnished with 
weapons of celestial temper, and was altogether dissatisfied with 
his state, till he had put on the whole armour of God, with a 
determined resolution never to put it off, till his last conflict 
should be decided. He then appeared in the complete Chris- 
tian uniform ; from the helmet of salvation to the sandals of 
peace, all was entire, and perfectly fitted to his spiritual frame. 
No mortal part was left unguarded, nor was any joint of hig 
harness so loose as to admit a thrust from the enemy. No part 
of his sacred panoply appeared uncouth or cumbersome, no part 
of his carriage constrained or unnatural : he appeared in arms 
as in his proper dress, and not as David, when he assayed to go 
forth in the armour of Saul. . On no occasion was he ever 
known to affect any thing like spiritual pomp ; yet, on every 
occasion, there was a dignity of character in his deportment that 
raised the veneration of every beholder. As the heroes of anti- 
quity were distinguished from warriors of an inferior order, by the 
splendour of their arms, so, by the uncommon lustre of his graces, 
lie was distinguished as a chieftain in the Christian bands" 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 67 



3. By the account given in the preceding pages, the reader 
will observe, that it was not " immediately* upon his entering 
into orders, that Mr. Fletcher was appointed statedly to labour 
in any particular place. As he still continued in the family of 
Mr. Hill, he was but occasionally called to exercise the ministry 
he had received. But, wherever he was invited to speak in the 
name of his Master, he effectually distinguished himself from 
the generality of ministers, by the earnestness and zeal with 
which he delivered his message. Whatever his hand found to 
do, in any part of the sacred vineyard, it may truly be said, that 
lie did it with all his might : and there is much reason to believe, 
that even these occasional labours were not in vain iwthe Lord* 
It was about three years after his ordination that he was pre= 
sented to the living of Madeley, where he had officiated for 
sometime previous to this appointment. As Madeley was the 
place of his choice, so it was a place to which, by his rare 
endowments, he was peculiarly adapted, and for the reformation 
of which he appears to have been eminently appointed by the 
providence of God. Celebrated for the extensive works carried 
on within its limits, Madeley w as remarkable for little else than 
the ignorance and profaneness of its inhabitants, among whom, 
respect to man was as rarely to be observed, as piety towards 
God. In this benighted place the Sabbath was openly profaned, 
and the most holy things contemptuously trampled under foot : 
even the restraints of decency were violently broken through, 
and the external form of religion held up as a subject of ridi- 
cule. This general description of the inhabitants of Madeley 
must not, however, be indiscriminately applied to every indi- 
vidual among them ; exceptions there were to this prevailing 
character, but they were comparatively few indeed. Such was 
the place where Mr. Fletcher was called to stand forth as a 
preacher of righteousness, and in which he appeared for the 
space of five and twenty years, as a burning and shining light. 

4. " Immediately upon his settling in this populous village, 
which was in the year 17G0, he entered upon the duties of his 



$ Gilpin's Nates 



63 



THE LI* L 01 



vocation with an extraordinary degree of earnestness and zeai. 
He saw the difficulties of his situation, and the reproaches to 
which he should be exposed, by a conscientious discharge of the 
pastoral office : but, persuaded of the importance of his charge, 
and concerned for the welfare of his people, he set his face like 
a flint against all who might oppose the truth or grace of God. 
As a steward of the manifold grace of God, he fuithfully dis- 
pensed the word of life according as every man had need ; 
instructing the ignorant, reasoning with gainsayers. exhorting 
the immoral, and rebuking the obstinate. Instant in season and 
out of season, he diligently performed the work of an evangelist, 
and lost no opportunity of declaring the truths of the Gospel. 
Not content with discharging the stated duties of the Sabbath, 
he counted that day as lost in which he was not actually em- 
ployed in the service of the church. As often as a small con- 
gregation could be collected, which was usually every evening, 
he joyfully proclaimed to them the acceptable year of the Lord, 
whether it were in the place set apart for public worship, in a 
private house, or in the open air. And on these occasions, the 
affectionate and fervent manner in which he addressed his 
hearers, was an affecting proof of the interest he took in their 
spiritual concerns. As the varying circumstances of his people 
required, he assumed a different appearance among them : at 
one season he would open his mouth in blessings ; and at 
another, he would appear, like his Lord, amid the buyers and 
sellers, with the lash of righteous severity in his hand. But, in 
whatever way he exercised his ministry, it was evident that his 
labours were influenced by love, and tended immediately, either 
re the extirpation of sin, or the increase of holiness. 

5. " Nor was he less attentive to the private duties of his 
station, than to public exhortation and prayer. Like a vigilant 
pastor, he daily acquainted himself with the wants and disposi- 
tions of his people, anxiously watching over their several house- 
holds, and diligently teaching them from family to family. 
Esteeming no man too mean, too ignorant, or too profane to 
merit his affectionate attention, he condescended to the lowest 
and most unworthy of his flock, cheerfully becoming the servant 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



69 



of all, that he might gain the more. In the performance of this 
part of his duty, he discovered an admirable mixture of discre- 
tion and zeal, solemnity and sweetness. He rebuked not an 
elder, but entreated him as a father ; to younger men he ad= 
dressed himself with the affection of a brother, and to children 
with the tenderness of a parent ; witnessing both to small and 
great the redemption that is in Jesus, and persuading them to 
cast in their lot with the people of God. In some of these holy 
visits, the earnest and constraining manner in which he has plead- 
ed the cause of piety, has melted down a whole family at once ; 
the old and the young have mingled their tears together, and 
solemnly determined to turn right humbly to their God. There 
were indeed several families in his populous parish, to which he 
had no access, whose members, loving darkness rather than 
light, agreed to deny him admission, lest their deeds should be 
reproved. In such cases, where his zeal for the salvation of in- 
dividuals could not possibly be manifested by persuasion and en- 
treaty, it was effectually discovered by supplication and prayer : 
nor did he ever pass the door of an opposing family without 
breathing out an earnest desire that the door of mercy might 
never be barred against their approaches. 

6. " With respect to his attendance upon the sick, he was ex- 
emplary and indefatigable. ' It was a work (says Mr. Wesley) 
for which he was always ready : if he heard the knocker in the 
coldest winter night, his window was thrown open in a moment. 
And when he understood either that some one was hurt in a 
pit, or that a neighbour was likely to die ; no consideration was 
ever had of the darkness of the night, or the severity of the 
weather ; but this answer was always given, c I will attend you 
immediately.' Anxious (proceeds Mr. Gilpin) upon every suit- 
able occasion to treat with his parishioners on subjects of a 
sacred nature, he was peculiarly solicitous to confer with them, 
when verging towards the borders of eternity. At such seasons, 
when earthly objects lose their charms, and the mind is naturally 
disposed to look for support from some other quarter, he cheer- 
fully came in to improve the providential visitation, either by 



70 



THE LIFE OF 



salutary advice or seasonable consolation. Thcie were valuable 
©pportunities, which nothing could prevail upon him to neglect, 
fully convinced that the dictates of truth are never more likely 
to make a due impression upon the heart, than when they are 
delivered in the antichamber of death. His treatment of the 
dying was always regulated by their peculiar circumstances, and 
his fidelity towards them was sweetly tempered with compassion. 
If the departing soul was prepared for the promises of the Gos- 
pel, he thankfully administered them with a lavish hand ; if 
otherwise, he was importunate in prayer, that the mercy of God 
might be magnified upon his languishing creature, though it 
should be as at the eleventh hour. As he never visited the cham- 
bers of the dying but in the spirit of earnest supplication, so 
he seldom quitted them without some degree of consolatory 
hope. 

7. " There is still another part of his duly, in the discharge of 
which he discovered unusual earnestness and activity. It was a 
common thing in his parish for young persons of both sexes to 
meet at stated times, for the purpose of what is called recreation, 
and this recreation usually continued from evening to morning, 
consisting chiefly in dancing, revelling, drunkenness, and obsce- 
nity. These licentious assemblies he considered as a disgrace 
to the Christian name, and determined to exert his ministeral 
authority for their total suppression. — He has frequently burst 
in upon these disorderly companies with a holy indignation, 
making war upon Satan in places peculiarly appropriated to his 
service. Nor was his labour altogether in vain among the chil- 
dren of dissipation and folly. After standing the first shock of 
their rudeness and brutality, his exhortations have been gene- 
rally received. with silent submission, and have sometimes pro- 
duced a partial if not an entire reformation in many, who were 
accustomed to frequent these assemblies. With one of these 
persons I am perfectly acquainted, who, having treated this 
venerable pastor with ridicule and abuse in one of these riotous 
assemblies, was shortly afterward constrained to cast himself at 
his feet and solicit his prayers. This man is now steadily walk- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 71 

ing in the fear of God, with a thankful remembrance of the ex- 
traordinary manner in which he was plucked as a brand from 
the burning. 

" These, and every other duty of his sacred vocation, among 
which I might have particularly noticed the public and private 
instruction of children, were performed by this apostolic minis- 
ter, with an earnestness and zeal, of which I can convey but a 
very imperfect idea. Never weary of well-doing, he counted it 
his greatest privilege to spend and be spent in ministering to 
the church, which he constantly honoured as the body of Christ, 
and in the service of which he sacrificed his strength, his health, 
and his life." 

8. So far Mr. Gilpin, who living in the neighbourhood, and be- 
ing well acquainted both with the state of the parish of Madeley r 
and with Mr. Fletcher's conduct and labours among its inhabi- 
tants, could speak from personal knowledge of the facts he re- 
lates. It is certain, as Mr. Wesley has also testified, that, " from 
the beginning of his settling there he was a laborious workman in 
his Lord's vineyard endeavouring to spread the truth of the 
Gospel, and to suppress vice in every possible way. " Those 
sinners who endeavoured to hide themselves from him he pur- 
sued to every corner of his parish ; by all sorts of means, public 
and private, early and late, in season and out of season, entreat- 
ing and warning them to flee from the wrath to come. — Some 
made it an excuse for not attending the church service on a Sun- 
day morning that they could not awake early enough to get their 
families ready. He provided for this also. Taking a bell in 
his hand, he set out every Sunday for some months, at five i& 
the morning, and went round the most distant parts of the parish, 
inviting all the inhabitants to the house of God." 

9. In the mean time it was his constant care rightly to divide 
to all the word of truth. This, it will readily be acknowledg- 
ed, is a work of no little importance in the church of God. 
" Here fidelity and skill are equally necessary, and if either be 
wanting the work will be incomplete. With respect to the lat- 
ter, either as it regards the w r ord of God, or as it relates to the 
human heart, Mr. Fletcher was abundantly qualified for the 



72 



lii£ LIFE Of 



discharge of his office. As to the human heart, he had so long 
and so accurately investigated his own, that he was not easih 
deceived in forming a judgment of his neighbour's. He knev% 
its depths as well as its shallows, and its subtle artifices as well 
as its natural tempers ; he explored its intricate mazes, and un- 
locked its secret recesses with wonderful ease ; and could gene- 
rally discover its real situation through every disguise. With 
regard to the word of God, he had studied it with so much con- 
stancy and care, that he was perfectly familiar with every part 
of it. He was deeply read in the spiritual sense of the word, and 
had a happy talent at reconciling its apparent contradictions. 
He could select from it with the utmost readiness truths of every 
different tendency, and knew how to apply them, not only in 
common cases, but in the most extraordinary exigencies of 
God's people. 

10. "His fidelity in addressing the different classes of hi* 
hearers, was correspondent to that spirit of discernment and 
wisdom, with which he was so eminently favoured. On the 
one hand, he never attempted slightly to heal the hurt of his peo- 
ple ; and, on the other, he was solicitous never to make sad the 
heart of the righteous, whom God had not made sad. Wherever 
he discovered impiety in the conduct, or hypocrisy in the heart, 
he immediately levelled against it the keenest arrows of convic- 
tion. He warned the wicked of his way, and frequently en- 
deavoured to draw him from it, by alarming his heart with salu- 
tary fears ; selecting and applying upon these occasions those 
passages of holy writ, which are peculiarly prof table for reproof 
and correction. And whenever it became necessary, he marshal- 
led against the careless sinner the most terrible denunciations 
of the Almighty's wrath. In the performance of this part of hi? 
duty, he paid but little regard to the outward circumstances of 
the offending party. Whether the enemies of God appeared in 
the splendour of riches, or in the meanness of poverty ; whethei 
they were distinguished by their erudition, or despicable by their 
ignorance, he met them with equal firmness in the cause of trath.( 

11. " The style of his reproofs was adapted, indeed, to tht 
various capacities and habits of these different classes of mer. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



73 



but the substance of those reproofs was invariably the same, to 
whatever class they were directed, neither sharpened by con= 
tempt, nor blunted by respect. Unawed either by the majesty of 
kings, or the madness of the people, he was equally fitted to ap- 
pear with Moses at an impious court, or to stand with Stephen in 
a turbulent assembly. But though he was far from betraying any 
pusillanimity in applying the severe threatenings of the Gospel 
to the obstinately impenitent, yet his heart in this awful employ- 
ment was never steeled against the feelings of humanity. His 
fidelity in this part of his duty was never unaccompanied with 
compassion and sorrow. He possessed the firmness of Daniel, 
with all the benevolence of that favoured prophet. Daniel was 
once directed to interpret and apply to Nebuchadnezzar a mys- 
terious vision of divine vengeance, and the fidelity with which 
he performed so painful a duty, is worthy of admiration. But 
while his interpretation was plain, and his application pointed, 
it is observable that they were preceded by evident regret, and 
followed by affectionate counsel. Such was the manner of 
Mr. Fletcher, who had learned, from a greater than Daniel, to 
pronounce a sentence of condemnation with anguish and tear*. 
Luke xix. 41. 

12. " But while he was faithful in proclaiming the day of ven- 
geance to the disobedient, he neglected not to proclaim liberty 
to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were 
bound. Both these parts of his duty he performed with fidelity, 
but the latter only with alacrity and cheerfulness. Peculiarly 
to fit him for this evangelical service, the Lord God had given 
him the tongue of the learned, that he should know how to speak 
a word in season to him that is weary ; and in the discharge of 
this favourite part of his office he was equally skilful, tender, 
and happy. His watchful eye was upon the weak, the faint, 
and the afflicted. He diligently acquainted himself with the 
nature and causes of their dish-ess ; and whether they fainted 
through the anguish of remorse, or groaned beneath the violence 
of temptation, he had a suitable cordial prepared for their 
relief. He placed before their eyes a rich display of God's 
everlasting love, and assisted them to extract healing virtue 

1Q 



74 



THE LIFE OF 



from his unchangeable promises. He feelingly exhorted them 
to stretch out the withered hand ; and, till they were enabled 
actually to lay hold on the hope set before them, he ceased not to 
proclaim, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long- 
suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for 
thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin ! 

13. "He was throughly acquainted with the treatment of 
afflicted consciences. He knew when to probe, and when to 
heal ; when to depress, and when to encourage : and no man's 
case was so perplexed or desperate, but he was in some measure 
prepared to explain and relieve it. He discovered hope for the 
spiritual mourner amid the most hopeless circumstances, and 
furnished the tempted with a clew to guide them through the 
intricacies of their situation. As the Psalmist addressed his 
own heart in distress, so he addressed himself to every son of 
affliction in the day of his trouble. He reasoned over the par- 
ticular case of the afflicted person — Why art thou so full of 
heaviness, and why is thy soul so disquieted zoithin thee ? Art 
thou afflicted beyond the common lot of thy companions in 
tribulation, or has any temptation befallen thee, except such as 
is common to man ? From reasoning he proceeded to encourage- 
ment ; Hope thou in God : reflect upon his nature, depend upon 
his word, and ask of the generations that are past, who ever 
trusted in the Lord and was confounded ? From encouragement 
he rose to assurance ; Thou shalt yet praise him, notwithstand- 
ing the present unpromising appearances : the God of all con- 
solation shall be thy God, the health of thy countenance, and thy 
portion for ever. 

14. " He was very anxiously desirous, that the voice of joy 
and health, might be heard in the dwellings of the righteous : 
nor would he be contented, till he could prevail upon the sor- 
rowful to bear some harmonious part in the work of adoration 
and thanksgiving. But it is impossible to give a just represen- 
tation of the sweet and condescending manner in which be 
treated every spiritual mourner. He would take up their 
neglected harps, and tune them to the praises of redeeming 
love. He would furnish them with a variety of sacred themes. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



73 



and solicit them, at least, to attempt one of the songs of Sion* 
And while they lingered, he would sweetly take the lead in 
celebrating the divine goodness. Now he recorded mercies 
past, and now he recounted promised blessings ; now he sung 
the wonders of grace, and now he pointed to the mysteries of 
glory. But if it appeared, after all these animating efforts on 
his part, that the mourners among his people were unable to 
accompany him in these joyful exercises, he would suddenly 
change his song of praise into a strain of supplication, and 
earnestly implore for them the light of His gracious countenance, 
whose prerogative it is to appoint beauty for ashes, the oil of joy 
for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of 
heaviness. 

" Thus with all possible plainness and fidelity, this animated 
preacher administered the good word of God in his day and 
generation, whether it was a word of threatening to the care- 
less and impenitent, or a word of consolation to the fearful and 
afflicted." 

15. Yet notwithstanding all the pains he took, he saw, for 
some time, little fruit of his labour : insomuch that he was more 
than once in doubt, whether he had not mistaken his place ; 
whether God had indeed called him to confine himself chiefly 
to one town, or to labour more at large in his vineyard. He 
seems to have been especially harassed with doubts upon this 
subject, if at any time he was weak in faith, and in an uncom- 
fortable state of mind. Thus in a letter to Mr. Charles Wesley, 
dated March 10, 1761, he says, " As I read your elegy (on Dr. 
M — — n) I could not refrain my tears ; tears so much the more 
sweet, as they originated in a secret hope that I should one day 
strip off the polluted rags of my own righteousness, and put on 
the Lord Jesus Christ, like the Christian hero of your poem. 

" I feel more and more, that I neither abide in Christ, nor 
Christ in me ; nevertheless, I do not so feel it, as to seek him 
without intermission. wretched man that I am, who shall 
deliver me from this heart of unbelief? — Blessed be God, 
who has promised me this deliverance, through our Lord 
Jesus Christ ! 



76 



THE LIFE OF 



" A few days ago, I was violently tempted to quit Madelev : 
the spirit of Jonah had so seized upon my heart, that I had the 
insolence to murmur against the Lord ; but the storm is now 
happily calmed, at least for a season. Alas ! what stubbornness 
is there in the will of man ; and with what strength does it 
combat the will of God under the mask of piety, when it can 
no longer do so with the uncovered shameless face of vice ! If 
a man bridleth not his tongue, all his outward religion is xain. 
May we not add to this observation of St. James, that if a man 
bridleth not his will, which is the language of his desires, his 
inward religion is vain also ? The Lord does not, however, 
leave me altogether ; and I have often a secret hope that he 
will one day touch my heart and my lips with a live coal from his 
altar : and that then his word shall consume the stubble, and 
break to pieces the stone." 

Again a few weeks after he writes to the same, " I know nor 
what to say to you of the state of my soul : I daily struggle in 
the slough of Despond, and I endeavour every day to climb the 
hill Difficulty. I need wisdom, mildness, and courage ; and no 
man has less of them than I. O Jesus, my Saviour, draw me 
strongly to Him who giveth wisdom to all who ask it, and up- 
braideth them not ! As to the state of my parish, the prospect 
is yet discouraging. New scandals succeed those that wear 
away ; but offences must come : happy shall I be, if the offence 
cometh not by me !" 

16. He seems also to have had some scruples respecting some 
expressions in the church service ; alluding te a passage in the 
Office for the public Baptism of Infants, he observes in a letter 
to Mr. Charles Wesley, Sept. 20, 1762. 

" Truly you are a pleasant casuist. What ! 1 It hath pleased 
thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive 
him for thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into 
thy holy church.' — Does all this signify nothing more than being 
taken into the visible church ? 

" How came you to think of my going to leave Madeley ? I 
have, indeed, had my scruples about the above passage, and 
some in the burial service ; but you may dismiss your fears, and 



THE IlEV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



be assured I will neither marry, nor leave my church, without ad- 
vising with you. — Adieu. Your affectionate brother, 

J. F.» 

1 7. Besides the uncomfortable state in which he sometimes 
found his soul, upon his first going to Madeley, he was discouraged 
by the smallness of the congregations, and the great opposition 
which he met with from persons of different descriptions. The 
first of these causes of discouragement, however, was soon remov- 
ed. Within a year, it seems, of his first settling there, he writes 
to Mr. Charles Wesley, as follows : 

" When I first came to Madeley I was greatly mortified and 
discouraged by the smallness of my congregations ; and I thought 
that if some of our friends at London had seen my little compa- 
pany, they would have triumphed in their own wisdom; but 
now, thank God, things are altered in that respect, and last Sun- 
day, I had the pleasure of seeing some in the churchyard, who 
could not get into the church. I began a few Sundays ago to 
preach in the afternoon, after catechising the children ; but I do 
not preach my own sermons. Twice I read a sermon of Arch- 
bishop Ussher's, and last Sunday one of the Homilies, taking the 
liberty to make some observations on such passages as confirm- 
ed what I advanced in the morning, and by this means I stop- 
ped the mouths of many adversaries." 

The church now, in a little time, began to be so crowded 
that the churchwardens, enemies, it seems, to God and his truth, 
began to speak of hindering strangers (persons of other parishes) 
from coming, and of repelling them from the Lord's Supper. 
But in these points Mr. Fletcher withstood them. It appears, 
however, that towards the latter end of the year the congrega- 
tions began rather to decline. For, October 12, he writes to 
the same person : 

" My church begins not to be so well filled as it has been, and 
I account for it by the following reasons. The curiosity of some 
of my hearers is satisfied, and others are offended by the word ; 
the roads are worse, and if it should ever please the Lord to 
pour his Spirit upon us, the time is not yet come ; for instead of 



78 



THE LIFE OF 



saying, Let us go up together to the house of the Lord, they ex- 
claim, Why should we go and hear a Methodist ? I should lose 
all patience with my flock, if I had not more reason to be satis- 
fied with them than with myself. My own barrenness furnishes 
me with excuses for their's ; and I wait the time when God 
shall give seed to the sower, and increase to the seed sown. In 
waiting that time, I learn the meaning of this prayer, Thy zcill 
be done ! Believe me your sincere, though unworthy friend, 

J. F." 

13. Although he did not immediately see much fruit of his 
labours, yet God soon gave him some proofs that his word was 
not altogether without its desired effect. In a letter, written 
soon after his going to Madeley, he mentioned three persons 
who " professed that they had received the consolations of di- 
vine love under his ministry but, says he, " I wait for their 
fruits." Another instance is mentioned by Mr. Wesley, which, 
it seems, occurred when he was under great discouragement : 
" A multitude of people had flocked together at a funeral. He 
seldom let these awful opportunities slip without giving a solemn 
exhortation. At the close of the exhortation which was then 
given, one man was so grievously offended, that he could not re 
frain from breaking out into scurrilous, yea, menacing language. 
But, notwithstanding all his struggling against it, the word 
fastened upon his heart. At first, indeed, he roared like a lion ; 
but he soon wept like a child. Not long after he came to Mr. 
Fletcher in the most humble manner, asking pardon for his past 
outrageous behaviour, and begging an interest in his prayers. 
This was such a refreshment as he stood in need of; and it was 
but a short time before the poor broken hearted sinner was 
filled with joy unspeakable : he then spared no pains in exhorting 
his fellow-sinners to flee from the wrath to come." 

19. From the beginning Mr. Fletcher did not confine his 
preaching to the church, nor his labours to his own parish. 
Soon after his going to reside at Madeley, we find him express- 
ing himself thus to a friend in one of his letters. " I have fre- 
quently had a desire to exhort in Madeley- Wood, and Coalbrook- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



79 



Dale, two villages of my parish ; but I have not dared to run 
before I saw an open door ; it now, I think, begins to open ; as 
two small societies of twenty persons have formed themselves in 
those places." 

To a little society, which he gathered about six miles from 
Madeley, he preached two or three times a week, beginning at 
five in the morning. Nay, for many years he regularly preach- 
ed at places, eight or ten, or sixteen miles off; returning the 
same night, though he seldom got home before one or two in the 
morning. 

20. In these, his labours of love, however although under- 
taken and prosecuted with the sole view of glorifying God, and 
saving souls from death eternal, he met with no little opposition 
and persecution. Indeed the highest degrees of piety to God, or 
of benevolence to mankind, are found insufficient to secure a 
man from the reproaches of the world. " On the contrary," as 
Mr. Gilpin has justly observed, "religion and virtue when 
carried to an extraordinary pitch of excellence, have generally 
exposed the possessors of them to the slander of malevolence, 
and the rigours of persecution." Many were the instances of 
opposition which the enemies of God and his truth made to this 
holy and benevolent man ; and various were the snares which 
they laid to entangle him, out of all which, however, the Lord 
graciously delivered him, not suffering them to hurt a hair of 
his head. 

One Sunday evening, after performing the usual duty at 
Madeley, he was about to set out for Madeley- Wood to preach 
and chatechise as usual. But just then notice was brought 
(which should have been given before) that a child was to be 
buried. His waiting till the child was brought prevented his 
going to the Wood. And herein the providence of God ap- 
peared. For, at this very time, many of the colliers, who nei- 
ther feared God nor regarded men, were baiting a bull just by 
the place of preaching. And having had plenty of drink, they 
had all agreed, as soon as he came, to bait the parson. Part of 
them were appointed to pull him off his horse, and the rest to 
set the dogs upon him. But in the mean ti/ne the bull broke 



80 



THE LIFE 01 



loose, and threw down the booth in which the gentlemen were 
drinking, and the people fearing for themselves the evil they in- 
tended for him, were all dispersed ; while the serious friends, 
who had come together to hear him preach were waiting for 
him in quietness and safety. 

21. But drunken colliers were not the only persons who op- 
posed and persecuted him. Several of the gentlemen, as they 
were called, and even some of the neighbouring clergy and ma- 
gistrates, set themselves against him from the first : but without 
being able to accomplish their purpose. August 18, 1761, he 
writes as follows to Mr. Charles Wesley. 

" I do not know whether I mentioned to you a sermon 
preached at the Archdeacon's visitation. It was almost all 
levelled at the points which are called the doctrines of Metho- 
dism, and as the preacher is minister of a parish near mine, it is 
probable he had me in his eye. After the sermon another 
clergyman addressed me with an air of triumph, and demanded 
what answer I could make. As several of my parishioners were 
present, besides the churchwardens, 1 thought it my duty to 
take the matter up ; and I have done so by writing a long let- 
ter to the preacher, in which I have touched the principal mis- 
takes of his discourse with as much politeness and freedom as I 
was able : but I have as yet had no answer. I could have 
wished for your advice before I sealed my letter; but as I 
could not have it, I have been very cautious, intrenching myself 
behind the ramparts of Scripture, as well as those of our Homi- 
lies and Articles." 

About two months after he writes to the same friend. " You 
have always the goodness to encourage me, and your encourage- 
ments are not unseasonable ; for discouragements follow 
one after another with very little intermission. Those which 
are of an inward nature are sufficiently known to you; but 
some others are peculiar to myself, especially those I have 
had for eight days past during Madeley wake. Seeing that 
I could not suppress these Bacchanals, I did all in my power to 
moderate their madness ; but my endeavours have had little or 
no effect ; the impotent dyke I opposed? only made the torrent 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



01 



swell and foam, without stopping its course. You cannot 
well imagine how much the animosity of my parishioners is 
heightened, and with what boldness it discovers itself against 
me, because I preach against drunkenness, shows, and bull- 
baiting. The publicans and maltmen will not forgive me : they 
think, that to preach against drunkenness, and to cut their 
purse, is the same thing." 

The 16th of May following, he says, " Since my last, our 
troubles have increased. A young man having put in force the 
act for suppressing swearing against a parish officer, he stirred 
up all the other half gentlemen, to remove him from the parish. 
Here I interposed, and to do so with effect, I took the young 
man into my service. By God's grace I have been enabled to 
conduct myself in this matter so as to give them no handle 
against me ; and in spite of all their cabals, I have got the 
better. 

" What has greatly encouraged them, is the behaviour of a 
magistrate, who was at the first inclined to favour me, but after- 
ward turned against me with peculiar malevolence, and pro- 
ceeded so far as to threaten me, and all my flock of the Rock 
Church* with imprisonment. Hitherto the Lord has stood by 
me, and my little difficulties are nothing to me ; but I fear I sup- 
port them rather like a philosopher, than a Christian. We were 
to have been mobbed with a drum last Tuesday at the Rock 
Church, but their captain, a Papist, behaved himself so very 
ill that they were ashamed of him, and are made peaceable 
for the present. Ask of God to give me wisdom, resolution, 
and love." 

It appears by a letter of his, written to Mr. Charles Wesley 
in July following, that he presented the Papist above-mentioned 
at the succeeding visitation, although without effect. " Three 
weeks ago (says he) I went to Ludlow to the bishop's visitation^ 
and I thought the occasion favourable for my purpose : but the 
churchwardens, when we were upon the spot, refused to support 

* The Rock Church were a company of well-disposed people, who assem- 
bled for hearing the word, and prayer, at a small house built upon a rock, 
in Madeley-Wood. 

11 



82 



THE LIFE 01 



me, and the court has paid no regard to my presentation. Thus 
I have gained some experience, though at my own cost. The 
sermon did not touch the string with which I was whipped the 
last visitation, and I afterward had the boldness to go and dine 
with the bishop. 

" Many of my parishioners are strangely disconcerted at my 
bringing my gown back from Ludlow. [They thought the 
bishop would have stripped him of it.] With respect to the 
magistrate I mentioned, who, because he acted as judge of the 
circuit two years ago, believes himself as able a lawyer as judge 
Foster ; he, for the present, contents himself with threatenings. 
I met him the other day, and after he had called me Jesuit. &c. 
and menaced me with his cane, he assured me again, that he 
would soon put down our assemblies. — How ridiculous is this 
impotent rage ! 

" I have attempted to form a society, and in spite of much 
opposition and many difficulties, I hope, by God's grace, to sue- 
ceed. I preach, I exhort, I pray, &c. but as yet I seem to have 
cast the net on the wrong side of the ship. Lord Jesus, come 
thyself, and furnish me with a divine commission ! For some 
months past I have laboured under an insuperable drowsiness ; 
I could sleep day and night ; and the hours which I ought to 
employ with Christ on the mountain, I spend like Peter in the 
garden." Thus we see this man of God was not without his 
infirmities. But these he always magnified. 

22. As the reader will probably wish to see a little further 
account of this persecution, and of the behaviour of this good 
man under it, I shall insert here also an extract from another 
letter. In August of the same year (1762) he writes as follows 
to the same friend, in whom he always put entire confidence. 

" I have received your last, and I rejoice that Dr. Turner, by 
whose skill the Lord once brought me up from the grave, has 
undertaken your cure. May he have the same success with 
you that he had with me ; but, be that as it will, our comfort is 
to know thai God will do all for the best. 

" I ha^e still trials of all sorts. First, spiritual ones. My 
heart is hard ; I have not that contrition, that filial fear, that 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



sweet, humble melting of heart before the Lord, which I con- 
sider as essential to spiritual Christianity. 

" Secondly, The opposition made to my ministry increases. 
A young clergyman, who lives in Madeley-W ood, where he has 
great influence, has openly declared war against me, by pasting 
on the church-door a paper, in which he charges me with rebel- 
lion, schism, and being a disturber of the public peace. He 
puts himself at the head of the gentlemen of the parish, (as 
they term themselves) and supported by the Recorder of Wen- 
lock, he is determined to put in force the Conventicle Act 
against me. A few weeks ago, the widow who lives in the 
Rock Church, and a young man, who read and prayed in my 
absence, were taken up. I attended them before the justice, 
and the young clergyman with his troop were present. They 
called me Jesuit, &c. and the justice tried to frighten me by 
saying, " that he would put the act in force, though we should 
assemble only in my own house." I pleaded my cause as well 
as I could ; but seeing he was determined to hear no reason, I 
told him, " he must do as he pleased, and that if the Act in 
question concerned us, we were ready to suffer all its rigours." 
In his rage he went the next day to Wenlock, and proposed to 
grant a warrant to have me apprehended; but, as the other 
justices were of opinion that the business did not come under 
their cognizance, but belonged to the Spiritual Court, he was 
obliged to swallow his spittle alone. The churchwardens talk 
of putting me in the Spiritual Court, for meeting in houses, &c. 
But what is worst of all, three false witnesses offer to prove, 
upon oath, that I am a liar ; and some of my followers (as they 
are called) have dishonoured their profession, to the great joy 
of our adversaries. 

" In the midst of these difficulties, I have reason to bless the 
Lord that my heart is not troubled. Forget me not in your 
prayers. Your's, 

J. F." 

23. Such was a part, and but a very small part, of the opposi- 
tion, which, from time to time, for many years, he met with. 



1 HE LIFE 01 



" His situation with respect to the unworthy part ot \ug parish- 
ioners," says Mr. Gilpin, "was similar to the situation ot 
Daniel, with respect to the Babylonish courtiers: hi? whole 
conduct was so admirably regulated by circumspection and pru- 
dence, that malice itself could find no occasion against him, 
except concerning the law of his God. The voluptuary detested 
his temperance and self-denial ; the man of pride poured con- 
tempt upon his humility and condescension ; the licentious were 
offended at his gravity and strictness ; and the formal were 
roused to indignation by that spirit of zeal and devotion, which 
influenced his whole conversation and conduct. All of these, 
however they might differ among themselves, were leagued 
together as the inveterate enemies of this venerable pastor. 
They wrested his words, they misrepresented his actions, and 
cast out his name as evil. But. whatever he was called to suffer 
from the malice and opposition of his enemies, he endured it all 
with the utmost magnanimity and composure, not rendering evil 
for evil, or railing for railing ; but, contrariwise, blessing. 
While some indignant professors are ready, with James and 
John, to command fire from heaven for the destruction of their 
opposers ; and while others are inquiring, with Peter, how often 
they are to meet their offending brethren with unfeigned for- 
giveness, he gave himself an example of that uncommon charity, 
which 'sufiereth long, and is kind ; which is not easily provoked, 
and thinketh no evil. When he was reviled, he reviled not 
again ; when he suffered, he threatened not ; but committed him- 
self to him that judgeth righteously.' 

" Whether he was insulted in his person, or injured in his 
property ; whether he was attacked with open abuse, or pursued 
by secret calumny ; through the testimony of a good conscience, 
he walked amid the most violent assaults of his enemies, as a 
man completely invulnerable ; and while his firmness discovered 
that he was unhurt, his forbearance testified that he was unof- 
fended. His love was truly unconquerable : the cold waters of 
disrespect could not quench it, neither could floods of reproach 
drown it. Being reviled, he blessed ; being persecuted, he suffered 
it ; being defamed, he entreated ; provoking his enemies, by every 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



n 



affectionote method to love and good works. Whenever he dis= 
cerned a virtue in the character of an adversary, he commended 
it, he magnified it, he rejoiced over it, and endeavoured to make 
it a medium of reconciliation.-^Whenever he discovered an 
enemy in distress, he hastened to meet him with tokens of gene- 
rosity and kindness ; if he hungered, he fed him ; if he thirsted, 
he gave him drink; if he was oppressed, he maintained his 
cause ; if his heart was brought down through heaviness, he en- 
deavoured to support and console him ; embracing with thank- 
fulness, every possible opportunity of heaping coals of fire on his 
head" 

24. It must be observed here, however, that the opposition 
which some of his parishioners and others made to him, was 
of that nature, that he was constrained, although reluctant, 
to denounce upon them the judgments of God, and to warn 
them, if they did not repent, God would speedily cut them 
off. And the truth of these predictions, as I may not im- 
properly term them, was shown over and over by their sig- 
nal accomplishment. January 13, 1766, he wrote to a friend 
as follows : 

"This evening I have buried one of the warmest op- 
posers of my ministry, a stout, strong young man, aged 
twenty-four years. About three months ago, he came to 
the churchyard with a corpse, but refused to come into the 
church. When the burial was over, I went to him, and 
mildly expostulated with him. His constant answer was^ 
4 that he had bound himself never to come to church while 
I was there; adding, that he would take the consequences, 
&c.' Seeing I got nothing, I left him, saying with uncom- 
mon warmth, (though as far as I can remember without the 
least touch of resentment) ' I am clear of your blood ; hence- 
forth it is upon your own head ; you will not come to church 
upon your legs, prepare to come upon your neighbours* 
shoulders.' He wasted from that time, and to my great sur- 
prise hath been buried on the spot where we were when the 
conversation passed between us. When I visited him in his 



36 



THE LIFE OF 



sickness, he seemed tame as a wolf in a trap. O may God 
have turned him into a sheep in his last hours !" 

25. Many other instances might be produced, if need were, 
of God's confirming the word of his servant, and many were 
the indisputable proofs which were given in the parish and 
vicinity of Madeley, that the weapons of this eminent minister's 
warfare were mighty through God to the pulling down of strong 
holds. Indeed,* as he attacked sin in public and in private, 
under all its wonderful variety of appearances; so he never 
quitted the charge, till he had either subdued or put it to 
shame. Unawed either by numbers, or by power, he was su- 
perior to all the opposition that could be raised against him ; 
and it maybe confidently asserted, that no man was able to stand 
before him all the days of his life. That he had enemies who 
were never subdued, will readily be granted : but that any of 
those enemies were hardy enough openly to encounter him, is 
absolutely denied. The despisers of religion considered him as 
a man of an undaunted spirit in the cause of God ; and the most 
daring among diem, at the whisper of his approach, would seek 
the nearest shelter to screen themselves from his deserved re- 
buke. 

26. The weapon by which he was enabled to perform the 
most memorable of his public services, was that sacred word, 
which is emphatically called, the sword of the Spirit. In the ex- 
ercise of this two-edged instrument he was expert beyond de- 
scription, turning it every way for the defence of the Gospel, 
and the overthrow of its opposers. With this he cut in pieces 
all the snares of the wicked, and with this he struck at the 
deepest root of sin. With this he divided asunder soul and 
spirit, joints and marrow ; and wherever he aimed the deter- 
mined blow, it was impossible for all the address of the sinner 
effectually to ward it off. Upon this he chiefly depended for 
the success of his ministry, as the only weapon by which he 
could ever hope to penetrate through the prejudices of his peo- 
ple, and subdue their aversion to the glorious Gospel. While 
others are anxious to charm their hearers with " the studied or- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



87 



naments of artificial eloquence," his first care was, in simplicity 
and godly sincerity, to declare the truth as it is in Jesus. — Had 
he aimed at celebrity as a public speaker, furnished as he was 
with all the united powers of learning, genius, and taste, he 
might have succeeded beyond many, who are engaged in so in- 
significant a pursuit. But his design was to convert, and not to 
captivate his hearers 5 to secure their eternal interests, and not 
obtain their momentary applause. Hence, his speech and 
his preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but 
in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. He spake as in 
the presence of God, and taught as one having divine authority. 
There was an energy in his preaching that was irresistible. 
His subjects, his language, his gestures, the tone of his voice, and 
the turn of his countenance, all conspired to fix the attention 
and affect the heart. Without aiming at sublimity, he was truly 
sublime; and uncommonly eloquent without affecting the 
orator. 

27. " He was wondrously skilled in adapting himself to the 
different capacities and conditions of his hearers. He could 
stoop to the illiterate, and rise with the learned ; he had incon- 
trovertible arguments for the sceptic, and powerful persuasives 
for the listless believer ; he had sharp remonstrance for the ob- 
stinate, and strong consolation for the mourner : and, like a 
scribe, throughly instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, he 
brought forth out of his treasures, things new and old, as occa- 
sion required. To hear him without admiration was impossi- 
ble 5 without profit improbable. The unthinking went from his 
presence under the influence of serious impressions, and the ob- 
durate with kindled relentings. Many an unsuspecting trifler 
has he enclosed in the Gospel net, and many a happy captive has 
he led, in the course of his public ministry, from darkness to 
light, and from the power of Satan to God. I shall here trans- 
cribe a short passage from a letter addressed to me by one of the 
author's esteemed friends. 6 I would rather have heard,' says 
the writer, ' one sermon from Mr. Fletcher, viva voce, than 
read a volume of his works. His words were clothed with 
power, and entered with effect. His writings are arrayed in all 



88 THE LIFE OF 

the garb of human literature. But his living word soared on 
eagle's flight above humanity. He basked in the sun, carried 
his young ones on his wings, and seized the prey for his Master. 
In short, his preaching was apostolic ; while his writings, though 
enlightened, are but human.'' " 

28. But however quick, penetrating, and powerful, his 
word in general was, Mr. Fletcher was accustomed " to place 
his chief glory and pleasure in spreading abroad the benedic- 
tions of the Gospel. He considered the ministration of mercy 
as abundantly more glorious than the ministration of condemna^ 
tion, and was disposed to magnify it as such upon all occasions. 
Experiencing in his own heart the inestimable effects of mercy , 
he was anxious that all men should be partakers of his joy : and 
whenever he was engaged in pointing out the source of that 
mercy, its nature, its design, or the different degree of its mani- 
festation, he was then engaged in an employment peculiarly 
suited both to his inclination and his state. These were sub- 
jects upon which he delighted to dwell, and upon which he had 
astonishing things to offer. His disposition to universal bene- 
volence was conspicuous through the whole of his spiritual 
progress, but especially in the latter years of his life, when his 
heart was as a vessel running over with Christian charity. As 
the holy ointment ran down from the head of Aaron to the very 
skirts of his clothing ; so the charity of this exemplary pastor de- 
scended to, and embraced the very least and lowest of the hu- 
man race. Wherever the smallest religious desire was express- 
ed, he pronounced a blessing upon it ; and wherever the weakest 
endeavour after spiritual attainments was discoverable, he en- 
couraged it with his congratulations, and strengthened it with his 
prayers: nay, wherever impiety opposed him under its most 
malignant appearances, he met it with mingled commiseration 
and hope. Like a faithful imitator of the blessed Jesus, he 
came preaching peace, and breathing the most undissembled 
good will to all around him. Like his beneficent Master, he 
went about either doing, or seeking to do good, in every 
possible way : and wherever he came, he appeared like some 
superior being, whose sole employment was to benefit and bless 



THE REV* JOHN FLETCHER. S9 

the children of men. In those houses where the sons and 
daughters of peace were found, he was welcomed as a mes- 
senger of the most joyful tidings, and honoured as an am- 
bassador of Jesus Christ. These happy families submitted 
with joy to his paternal authority, and considered his pasto- 
ral visits as an invaluable privilege. They looked upon their 
houses as consecrated by his prayers, and received his benedic- 
tions with reverence and gratitude." 

29. It is justly observed, further, by the same reverend and 
pious author, that " the weak and the wavering have, in every 
age, outnumbered the vigorous and unshaken professors of Chris- 
tianity. Mr. Fletcher beheld in his day, with inexpressible 
concern, the increasing class of such unsteady believers : but ? 
while he bewailed their instability, he allowed them an ample 
share of his affection. Far from despising the day of small 
things, he laboured with the most affectionate solicitude to 
strengthen the weak hand, and confirm the feeble knee, of every 
wavering professor. His anxiety for their advancement in 
grace, was discovered in every possible way, and his whole de- 
portment toward them was marked with unusual tenderness and 
regard. He followed them with unwearied attention, till he 
could discover the particular causes of their spiritual decay ; 
and when these were once ascertained, he employed the most 
laborious efforts for their removal. He carefully acquainted 
himself with the peculiar circumstances and disposition of the 
unstable party, skilfully adapting both his language and his man- 
ner to the nature of their past attainments, and their present 
deficiencies. He argued against their fears, he satisfied their 
doubts, he bewailed their lukewarmness, and reminded them of 
their privileges ; entreating or rebuking, consoling or censuring 
them, with all long-suffering. In the mean time he not only 
avoided, in his own conduct, whatever might have a tendency 
to offend or unsettle their minds, but admonished the stronger 
brethren to maintain, towards their feeble companions, a car- 
riage regulated by more than ordinary circumspection and kind- 
ness. 



THE LIFE OP 



" Thus, alter having used every generous endeavour for 
the restoration of the weak, and after having removed every 
apparent obstacle from their path, in the spirit of supplica- 
tion and prayer he would watch for their return. And when- 
ever he perceived in them the first indications of a holy reso- 
lution, it cannot be told with what meltings of heart he 
would fly to embrace them ; how graciously he would con- 
descend to their weakness, how carefully he would support 
their steps, and with how much affectionate counsel he would 
guide them in the way. On these occasions, especially, he 
put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meek- 
ness mid forbearance, exhibiting through his whole conduct 
a lovely imitation of that great Shepherd, who gathers the 
lambs zvith his arm, and gently leads those that are with young." 

30. As a specimen of the manner in which he addressed 
the weak in faith, I shall here lay before my readers an ex- 
tract from some of his letters written about this time. To 
Mr. Vaughan, Sept. 4. 1762, he says, "I rejoice that you 
inquire where Christ maketh his flock to rest at noon. The 
rest from the guilt and power of sin, you will find only in 
inward holiness : and this I apprehend to consist in, what St. 
Paul calls the kingdom of God — righteousness, which exclude? 
all guilt ; peace, which banishes all fear that hath torment ; 
and joy, which can no more subsist with doubts, anxiety, and 
unstableness of mind, than light can subsist with darkness. 
That there is a state, wherein this kingdom is set up, firmly 
set up in the heart, you may see by our Lord's sermon on 
the mount, by his priestly prayer in St. John's Gospel, chap, 
xvii. by the epistle of that apostle, and various parts of the epis- 
tles of St. Paul and St. James. 

" To aim aright at this liberty of the children of God requires 
a continual acting of faith — of a naked faith in a naked pro- 
mise or declaration, such as, 4 The Son of God was manifested 
to destroy the works of the devil : — The law of the Spirit of 
life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin 
and death : — I can do all things, through Christ, who strength- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



91 



eneth rae. 5 By a naked faith in a naked promise, I do not 
mean a bare assent, that God is faithful, and that such a promise 
in the book of God may be fulfilled in me ; but a bold, hearty, 
steady venturing of my soul, body, and spirit, upon the truth of 
the promise, with an appropriating act. It is mine, because I 
am a penitent sinner * and I am determined to believe, come 
what will. Here you must stop the ear of the mind to the sug- 
gestions of the serpent; which, were you to reason with 
him, would be endless, and would soon draw you out of the 
simple way of that faith by which we are both justified and 
sanctified. 

" You must also remember, that it is your privilege to go to 
Christ, by such a faith now, and every succeeding moment : and 
that you are to bring nothing but a distracted, tossed, hard heart ; 
just such an one as you have now. Here lies the grand mistake 
of many poor but precious souls : they are afraid to believe, 
lest it should be presumption, because they have not as yet com- 
fort, joy, love, &c. ; not considering, that this is to look for 
fruit before the tree be planted. Beware, then, of looking for 
any peace or joy, prievous to your believing ; and let this be up- 
permost in your mind. 

66 The Lord make you wise as a serpent, and harmless as 
the loving dove ; but beware of the serpent's food, dust ; and the 
dove's bane, birdlime, I mean worldly cares. O, my friend, 
what is the world ? — A flying shadow. As we fly through it, let 
us lose ourselves in the Eternal Substance. Farewell in the 
Lord. Yours, 

J. 

Two months after, he writes thus to Miss Hatton, " I thank* 
you for the confidence you repose in the advice of a poor fellow- 
sinner : may the Father of lights direct you through so vile an 
instrument ! If you build all your hopes of heaven upon Jesus 
Christ in all his offices, you do not build without a foundation, 
but upon the true one. 

" That there is a seal of pardon, and an earnest of our inheri- 
tance above, which you are as yet a stranger to, seems clear 



I 



92 THE LIFE OV 

from the tenour of your letter ; but had I been in the place of 
the gentleman you mention, I would have endeavoured to lay it 
before you, as the fruit of faith, and a most glorious privilege, 
rather than as the root of faith, and a thing absolutely necessary 
to the being of it. 

" I believe many people know, when they receive faith, and 
all people, when they receive the seal of their pardon. When 
they believe in Christ, they are justified in the sight of God ; and 
when they are sealed by the Spirit, they are fully assured of that 
justification in their own conscience. Some receive faith, and 
the seal of their pardon, in the same instant, as the jailor, &zc. 
but others receive faith first, as the dying thief, the woman of 
Canaan, David, the people of Samaria,* and the faithful at Ephe- 
sus.f Suppose then, God gave you faith, i. e. a hearty trust in 
the blood of Christ, and a sincere closing with him, as your 
righteousness and your all, while you received the sacrament, 
(which seems to me very probable, by the account you give me) 
your way is exceeding plain before you. Hold fast your confi- 
dence, but do not rest in it ; trust in Christ, and remember he 
says, / am the way ; not for you to stop, but to run on in Him. 
Rejoice to hear, that there is a full assurance of faith to be ob- 
tained by the seal of God's Spirit, and go on from faith to faith, 
until you are possessed of it. But remember this, and let this 
double advice prevent your straying to the right or left : — First, 
That you will have reason to suspect the sincerity of your zeal, if 
you lie down easy without the seal of your pardon, and the full 
assurance of faith. Secondly, While you wait for that seal in all 
the means of grace, beware of being unthankful for the least de- 
gree of faith and confidence in Jesus ; beware of burying one 
talent because you have not five ; beware of despising the grain 
of mustard-seed, because it is not yet a tree. 

" May the Lord teach you the middle path, between resting 
short of the happiness of 'making your calling and election 
sure? and supposing you are neither called nor chosen, and that 
God hath not yet truly begun his good work in you. You can 



* Acta viii. 12—16. 



t Eph. i. 13. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



93 



never be too bold in believing, provided you still aspire after 
new degrees of faith, and do not use your faith as a cloak for sin. 
The Lord despises not the day of small things ; only beware of 
resting in small things. And look for the seal and abiding witness 
of God's Spirit, according to the following direction : 

" Restless, resigned, for this I wait, 
For this my vehement soul stands still." 

As to deep sights of the evil of sin, the more you go on, the 
more you will see Christ exceeding lovely, and sin exceeding 
sinful : therefore, look up to Jesus, as a vile and helpless sinner, 
pleading his promises : this is going on, and trust him for 
the rest. 

M With respect to myself, in many conflicts and troubles of 
soul, I have consulted many masters of the spiritual life, but 
divine mercy did not, does not suffer me to rest upon the word 
of a fellow creature. Trie best advices have often increased 
my perplexities ; and the end was to make me cease from human 
dependance, and wait upon God from the dust of self-despair. 
To him, therefore, I desire to point you and myself, in the per- 
son of Jesus Christ. This incarnate God receives weary, per- 
plexed sinners still, and gives them solid rest. He teaches as 
no man ever taught ; his words have spirit and life ; nor can he 
possibly mistake our case. I am, madam, your fellow-servant 
in the patience and kingdom of Jesus, 

J. F." 



To the same person, he says in aDother letter, dated Jan. 
28, 1763, "I share in the joy which your deliverance from 
your late trials gives to those who shared in your perplexity. 
Heaviness may endure for a night, but gladness cometh in the 
morning ; and when it comes after a long uneasy night, it is 
doubly welcome, and deserves a double tribute of praises. O be 
not wanting in that sweet duty ! — I mean praising, from a sense 
of the divine goodness, love, and patience towards us. Remem- 
ber that you are brought from darkness to light, to show forth 



94 



THE LIFE 01 



the praises of Him, who calleth you : arid that \ our feet are set 
at liberty for you to run. with patience, the race of prayer and 
praise, self-denial and obedience, which the Lord hath set 
before you. 

" Would you go on comfortably and steadily for the time to 
come, beg of the Lord to give you grace to observe the follow- 
ing advice. 1. Live above earthly and creature comforts. 

2. Beware of flatness and lukewarmness : this, if not carried 
immediately to the Lord, ends often in darkness and deadness. 

3. Value divine comforts above all things, and prize Christ 
above all comforts, that if they should fail, you may still glory in 
the God of your salvation. 4. Let that which torments others, 
make your happiness — I mean self-denial, and renouncing your 
own will. 5. Be ready to yield, zcith joy, to every conviction 
of the Spirit of God. Be faithful to present grace, and aspire 
after a continual growth. 6. Live the present moment to God. 
and avoid perplexing yourself about your past or future experi- 
ence : by giving up yourself to Christ, as you are, and being 
willing to receive him noic, as he is, leaving all the rest to him, 
you will cut up a thousand temptations by the roots." 

A few weeks after, he adds. i: I am glad you persist in taking 
up your cross, and following the Captain of our salvation. You 
must expect many difficulties : some of your greatest trials may 
come from your dearest friends without, and your nearest part 
within. I have always found it profitable to expect the worst, 
for a temptation foreseen is half overcome. Let us count the 
cost daily, and learn to value all outward things as dung and 
dross, that we may win Christ. 

" My heart is at present full of an advice, which I have just 
given, with some success, to the Israelites in the wilderness 
about this place : — Spend, in 4 feeling after Christ, by the prayer 
of such faith as you have, whether it be dark or luminous, the 
rime you have hitherto spent in desponding thoughts, in per- 
plexing considerations upon the badness or uncertainty of your 
state, and come now to the Lord Jesus with your present wants, 
daring to believe that he waits to be gracious to you.' Christ 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



95 



is the iwy, the highway to the Father, and a highway is as free 
for a sickly beggar as a glorious prince. If it be suggested, 
4 you are too presumptuous to intrude without ceremony upon 
Him, that is glorious in holiness, and fearful in praises — answer 
in looking up to Jesus : 

' Be it I myself deceive, yet I must, I must believe.* 

I am with sincerity, &c. J. F." 

In August his words to this lady are, " I am heartily glad to 
find that your heart is set upon obtaining the one thing needful, 
Christ in us, with all his graces, the hope of glory, I beg, in my 
Master's name, you would cherish the conviction of the need of 
this prize of your high calling, and pursue it in the new and 
living way in which the Fathers trod, that of the cross, and that 
of faith. We travel in the first, by continually denying our- 
selves, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and 
the pride of life ; and we advance in the second by aiming at 
Christ, claiming Christ, embracing Christ, delighting and rejoicing 
in Christ received in the heart, through the channel of the Gos- 
pel promises. To be able to go on in the way of the cross and 
that of faith, you stand in need, Madam, of much recollection, 
and steady watchfulness over the workings of your own heart, 
and diligent attention to the whispers of divine grace. That 
the Lord would powerfully enable us to run on with faith and 
patience, till we inherit the promises, is the prayer of, Madam, 
your servant in Christ, 

J. F." 

31. The following directions, sent, I believe, about the same 
time, to this well-disposed, but diffident friend, show still more 
fully how well qualified he was to strengthen the weak hands, 
and to speak a word in season to such as were weary, " (1.) It 
is better to perish for believing wrong, than for not believing at 
all : venture then, with Esther, If I perish, I perish. I had 
rather perish in trying to touch the sceptre of grace, than in 
indolently waiting till the King touches me with it. 



9G 



THE LIFE OF 



" (2.) Christ often reveals himself as a babe, a feeble infant* 
Do not you despise him in his lowest, weakest state : do not say 
to your Saviour, I will not receive thee, unless thou appear in a 
blaze of glorious light. — Reject not the little leaven ; and if your 
grain of faith is small as mustard-seed, be the more careful not 
to throw it away as dirt. The Holy Ghost says, The light of the 
just shines more and more U the perfect clay ; and how feeble 
is the light of the early morning, how undiscernible from 
darkness ! 

" (3.) Sin gives you your first title to the Friend of sinners, 
and a simple and naked faith the second. Do not then puzzle 
yourself about contrition, faithfulness, love, joy, power over 
sin, and a thousand such things, winch Satan will persuade you, 
you must bring to Christ. He will receive you gladly with the 
great mountain of sin ; and the smallest grain of faith, at 
Christ's feet, will remove that mountain. 

" (4.) At the peril of your soul, do not puzzle yourself at 
present about joy, or love. Only desire that this blessed Man 
may be your Bridegroom, and that you may firmly believe that 
he is so, because he hath given you his flesh and blood upon the 
cross ; and continue believing this, and trusting in him. Your 
business is with Jesus, with his free, unmerited love, with his 
glorious promises, &c. &c. 

" (5.) Strongly expect no good from your ozon heart : expect 
nothing but unbelief, hardness, unfaithfulness, and backsliding. 
And when you find them there, be not shaken nor discouraged ; 
rather rejoice that you are to live by faith on the faithful heart 
of Christ, and cast not away your confidence, which hath great 
recompense of reward. 

" (6.) When you are dull and heavy, as will often be the case, 
remember to live on Christ, and claim the more by naked faith. 
I have not time to say more, but Jesus, whom you hold by the 
hem of his promise, will teach you all the day long. Look unto 
him and be saved, and remember he forgives seventy times 
seven. May his dawning love attend you till it is noonday in 
your soul 5 and pray for your unworthy servant. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 97 

32. It must be allowed that these directions were well 
adapted to beget faith in the unbelieving and diffident, in order 
to their obtaining justification and peace with God, and to 
strengthen that faith. In the mean time he was not wanting in 
giving other advices calculated to guard and improve it. To 
Mr. Vaughan he says, " As you desire me to tell you simply 
what I think of the state of your soul as described in your let- 
ter, I will do it as the Lord shall enable me. 

" I praise him that he has begun a good work in you, which 
I make no doubt he will finish, if you do not counteract the 
operations of his grace. Your having sometimes free access 
to the throne of grace, but soon falling back into deadness and 
darkness, is the common experience of many who walk sincerely, 
though slowly, towards Sion. It argues, on one side, the draw- 
ings of faith; and on the other, the power of unbelief. I would 
compare such souls to the child of the patriarch, who came to 
the birth, nay, saw the light of this world, and yet returned 
again into his mother's womb, until, after a greater struggle, he 
broke through all that was in his way, and left the place where 
he had been so long in prison. 

" If you fall short, yet be not cast down, but strive more 
earnestly to enter in at the strait gate. Watch more unto 
prayer, and pray for that faith which enables the believer now 
to lay hold on eternal life. Remember, however, that your 
prayers will not avail much, unless you deny yourself, and take 
up every cross, which the Lord suffers men, devils, or your own 
heart, to lay upon you. In the name of Jesus, and in the power 
of his might, break through all ; and you will find daily more 
and more, that Jesus is the light of the world, and that he who 
follows him, shall not walk in darkness. The peace of Jesus 
be with you. Farewell. 

J. F » 

To Miss Hatton, who seems to have been in a similar state 
of mind, he writes more largely as follows : " You seem, Madam, 
not to have a clear 'dea of the happiness of the love of Jesus ; 
or, at least, of your privilege of loving him again. Your dull- 

13 



98 



THE LIFE OF 



ness in private prayer arises from the want of familiar friendship 
with Jesus. To obviate it, go to your closet, as if you were 
going to meet the dearest friend you ever had : cast yourself 
immediately at his feet, bemoan your coldness before him, extol 
his love to you, till your heart break with a desire to lovo him, 
yea, till it actually melts with his love. Be you, if not the 
importunate widow, at least the importunate virgin, and get 
your Lord to avenge you of your adversary — I mean your 
cold heart, 

"You ask from me some directions to get a mortified spirit. 
To get this get recollection. 

" Recollection is a dwelling within ourselves ; being abstracted 
from the creature, and turned towards God. It is both outward 
and inward. Outward recollection consists in silence from all 
idle and superfluous words ; and a wise disentanglement from 
the world, keeping to our own business, observing and following 
the order of God for ourselves, and shutting the ear against all 
curious and unprofitable matters. Inward recollection consists 
in shutting the door of the senses ; in a deep attention to the 
presence of God ; and in a continual care of entertaining holy 
thoughts, for fear of spiritual idleness, — Through the power of 
the Spirit, let this recollection be steady even in the midst of 
hurrying business : let it be calm and peaceable ; and let it be 
lasting. Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation, 

" To maintain this recollection, beware of engaging too 
deeply, and beyond what is necessary, in outward things : be- 
ware of suffering your affections to be entangled by world 1\ 
vanities, your imagination to amuse itself with unprofitable 
objects, and of indulging yourself in the commission of what 
are called small faults, 

" For want of continuing in a recollected frame all the day. 
our times of prayer are frequently dry and useless, imagination 
prevails, and the heart wanders : whereas we pass easily from 
recollection to delightful prayer. Without this spirit, there can 
be no useful self-denial, nor can we know ourselves ; but where 
it dwells, it makes the soul all eye, all ear ; traces and discovers 
sin, repels its first assaults, or crushes it in its earliest risings. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



" But take care here, to be more taken up with the thoughts 
of God than of yourself ; and consider how hardly recollection 
is sometimes obtained, and how easily it is lost. Use no forced 
labour to raise a particular frame; nor tire, fret, and grow im- 
patient, if you have no comfort ; but meekly acquiesce and 
confess yourself unworthy of it ; lie prostrate in humble sub- 
mission before God, and patiently wait for the smiles of Jesus. 

" May the following motives stir you up to the pursuit of re- 
collection. 1 . Without it, GodPs voice cannot be heard in the 
soul. 2. It is the altar on which we must offer up our Isaacs. 
3. It is instrumentally a ladder (if I may be allowed the expres- 
sion) to ascend to God. 4. By it the soul gets to its centre, out 
of which it cannot rest. 5. Man's soul is the temple of God- 
recollection the holy of holies, 6. As the wicked by recollec- 
tion find hell in their hearts, so faithful souls find heaven. 
7. Without recollection all means of grace are useless, or make 
but a light and transitory impression. 

" If we would be recollected, we must expect to suffer. 
Sometimes God does not speak immediately to the heart ; we 
must then continue to listen with a more humble silence. Some- 
times, assaults of the heart, or of the temper may follow, 
together with weariness, and a desire to turn the mind to some- 
thing else : here we must be patient.— By patience unwearied 
we inherit the promises. 

" Dissipated souls are severely punished. If any man abide 
not in Christ he is cast out as a branch — cast out of the light of 
God's countenance, and barrenness follows in the use of the 
means. The world and Satan gather and use him for their 
service. He is cast into the fire of the passions, of guilt, of 
temptation, and, perhaps, of hell. 

" As dissipation always meets its punishment, so recollection 
never fails of its reward. After a patient waiting comes com- 
munion with God, and the sweet sense of his peace and love* 
Recollection is a castle, an inviolable fortress against the world 
and the devil : it renders all times and places alike, and is 
:he habitation where Christ and his bride dwell. 



100 



THE LIFE 01' 



" I give you these hints, not to set Christ aside, but that you 
may, according to the light and power given to you, take these 
stones and place them upon the chief corner stone, and cement 
them with the blood of Jesus, until the superstructure, in some 
measure, answer to the excellence of the foundation. I beg an 
interest in your prayers for myself and those committed to 
my charge, and am, with sincerity, Madam, your servant for 
Christ's sake, 

J. F » 

These important advices were given March 5, 1764, and 
September following he adds, " With respect to the hinderances 
your worldly business lays in the way of your soul, I would have 
you to be persuaded, that they are by no means insurmountable. 
The following means, in due subordination to faith in Jesus, 
may, by the blessing of God, be of service to you. 

" (1.) Get up early, and save time before you go to business, 
to put on the whole armour of God, by close meditation and 
earnest prayer. 

" (2.) Consider the temptation that most easily besets you, 
whether it be hurry or vanity, or lightness, or want of recollec- 
tion to do what you do as unto God. — Ponder the consequences 
of those sins, see your weakness to resist them, and endeavour 
to obtain a more feeling sense of your helplessness : when you 
have it, you will naturally watch unto prayer, and look to Christ 
for strength from moment to moment. 

" (3.) When your mind hath been drawn aside, do not fret, 
or let yourself go down the stream of nature, as if it were in 
vain to attempt to swim against it ; but confess your fault, and 
calmly resume your former endeavour, but with more humility 
and watchfulness. 

" (4.) Steal from business now and then, though for two or 
three minutes only, and in the corner where you can be least 
observed, pour out your soul in confession, or a short ejaculation 
at the feet of Jesus, for power to watch, and to believe that he 
can keep you watching. May you feelingly believe, that he 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



101 



hath bought the power for you, and then, of a truth, you will find 
it done to you according to your faith. I am, &c. 

J. F." 

33. These extracts from his letters may serve to show us how 
this servant of the Lord Jesus was wont to exercise his ministry 
towards the weak and wavering, and how well the Lord had 
furnished him with grace and gifts for the important office of 
binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming liberty to the cap- 
tives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. 
But this was not the only way in which he comforted those that 
mourned, and gave them " the garments of praise for the spirit of 
heaviness." 

34. " As the parish of Madeley was uncommonly populous, so 
it abounded with persons, who, either through infirmity or mis- 
fortune, were reduced to a state of indigence and distress. 
Over this despised and destitute part of his flock, Mr. Fletcher 
was accustomed to watch with unusual attention and concern. 
He regarded them as his peculiar charge, and exerted himself 
to the utmost for their encouragement and support. Not con- 
tent with freely offering them the consolations of the Gospel, he 
contributed largely to the relief of their temporal necessities, 
and generally divided among them the greater part of his in- 
come. He sought them out with the most industrious care, and 
expressed a great degree of thankfulness to any person who 
would direct him to the abodes of wretchedness and poverty. 
To such abodes, indeed, he was seldom a stranger, nor could 
any consideration prevail with him to pass them by, without at- 
tempting to dry up the tears, and supply the wants of their 
afflicted inhabitants. His daily walks were among the father- 
less and the widows, the friendless and the oppressed: and 
while he counted it his indispensable duty to labour for their re- 
lief, he considered that very labour as one of the sublimest 
pleasures he was capable of enjoying. 

35. " The profusion of his charity toward the poor and needy 
is scarcely credible ; it constantly exhausted his purse, it fre- 
quently unfurnished his house, and sometimes left him destitute, 



102 



THE LITE OF 



of the most common necessaries. He was accustomed 10 make 
an exchange of state with his indigent brethren, freely bartering 
his ease for their wo, and his plenty for their penury. That he 
might feed the hungry, he led a life of abstinence and self-de- 
nial ; that he might cover the naked, he clothed himself in the 
most homely attire ; and that he might cherish such as were 
perishing in a state of extreme distress, he submitted to hard- 
ships of a very trying nature.'* He not only relieved their 
necessities himself, to the uttermost of his power, but was the 
mean of procuring help for them from others that were of 
greater ability. This appears from his letters of thanks to some 

of those persons. James I d, Esq. in particular, sent them 

frequent relief in different ways. — " Yesterday (says Mr. Fletcher 
to that friend of the poor, in a letter, dated Madeley, March 30, 
1767.) I received your kind letter; and your kind present about 
a month ago. It came safe, and is a large stock for the poor 
and me. The Lord return it you in living water. May it flow 
like a never failing stream through your soul, and the souls of all 
that are near and dear to you ; that is, not only those of your 
own household, but also of the household of faith. What a 
pleasure to love all, and be a well-wisher to all !" 

Again, in a letter dated March 26, 1769, he says to the same, 
Your rich present of meat came last week, and shall be dis- 
tributed to the pious poor agreeably to your orders, as a proof 
that Jesus, the liberal Jesus, the Bread of Life, is indeed risen, 
and lives in his members, who mutually aid and comfort each 
other. We are happy to receive your bounty, but you are more 
happy in bestowing it upon us : witness the words of Jesus, ' It 
is more blessed to give than to receive.' Nevertheless, receive 
by faith the presents of the Lord, the gifts of his Spirit, and re- 
ject not the bread which came down from heaven, because the 
Lord gives it you with so much love." 

He writes to the same friend some time after, " I think I 
wrote my last two days before I received your bounty- — a large 
hogshead of rice, and two cheeses. Accept the thanks of our 
poor and mine on the occasion. I distributed it on Shrove- 
Tuesday. and preached to a numerous congregation, on ' Seek 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



103 



ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other 
things shall be added unto you.' May you and I find the bread 
we scattered that day, though it should not be till after many 
days. We prayed for our benefactor, that God would give him 
an hundred fold in this life, and eternal life, where life eternal 
will be no burden. I saw then, what I have not often seen on 
such occasions, gladness without the appearance of envying or 
grudging." " But it is impossible (proceeds Mr. Gilpin) to de- 
clare in how many ways he discovered his tenderness towards 
the friendless, and to how many inconveniences he cheerfully 
exposed himself, for the alleviation of their various distresses. 
He followed them to the most secret scenes of their wretched- 
ness, and in all their afflictions he was afflicted; he literally 
bore their several burdens, and freely drank of their sorrowful 
cup, that he might make room in it for a mixture of consolation 
and joy. He was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame ; he was 
a father to the poor, and a friend to him that had no helper; the 
blessing of such as were ready to perish came upon him, and he 
caused the widovPs heart to sing for joy. Such was the atten- 
tion of this compassionate pastor to the necessitous among his 
people, and such was the liberality which he exercised towards 
them, to the close of his life ; when a concern for their wel- 
fare accompanied him to his death-bed, where he tenderly be- 
wailed their distresses, and earnestly recommended them to the 
favour of that God, who had promised, that the poor shall not 
always be forgotten." 

36. " The concern which Mr. Fletcher expressed for the 
relief of the unfortunate and afflicted, was truly uncommon ; but 
his compassion was still more abundant towards the immoral and 
profane, whom he constantly regarded as the most miserable of 
men. While he detested vice, he pitied the vicious : and 
while he fled from sin, as from the face of a serpent, he 
turned to the sinner with the warmest emotions of benevo- 
lence and charity. Considering the wicked as poor beyond 
the power of expression, he joyfully presented them with the 
pearl of great price. He saw them wandering as sheep with- 
out a shepherd, and endeavoured to conduct them to the fold of 



104 



1H£ LIFE Of 



God: he beheld them attempting to quench their thrist at 
the poisoned streams of worldly pleasure, and affectionately 
invited them to the fountain of living waters : he saw them 
heedlessly rushing to the gates of death, and laboured to turn 
their feet into the way everlasting. 

" Animated with that burning charity, by which St. Paul was 
impelled to publish the Gospel from nation to nation, this evan- 
gelical preacher was constrained, not only within, but as has 
been observed above, beyond the limits of his parish, to follow 
after the ignorant, the careless, and the abandoned, warning 
every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that he might 
present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Considering the 
business with which he was charged, as an employment of the 
highest importance, without paying any servile attention to times 
©r places, he lost no opportunity of executing the commission he 
had received. His highest wish was to convert the wicked from 
the error of his way ; and in the course of so ardous an under- 
taking, he was prepared, at the command of his Lord, to go forth 
into the highways and hedges with the invitations of the Gos- 
pel : anxious to do the work of an evangelist, with all possible 
fidelity, and not ashamed that every hour and every place should 
bear testimony to the affectionate zeal, with which he laboured 
for the welfare of the church. 

37. " As the miser toils to increase his hoards, and as the am- 
bitious person studies to advance his reputation in the world ; 
with equal assiduity and desire this holy man endeavoured to 
promote the reformation of the ungodly. Rising up early, and 
late taking rest, he was employed, either directly or indirectly, 
through the whole of the day, in hiring labourers into the ser- 
vice of his Lord. To engage their attention and excite their 
desire, he set before them the freedom of that service, the 
honours that attend it, and the rewards that follow it : to 
strengthen their feeble resolution, he joyfully offered them every 
brotherly assistance ; and to shame their inactivity, he pointed 
them to the example of those, who cheerfully bore all the bur- 
den and heat of the day. As an affectionate father conducts 
himself towards his disobedient children, reproving and alluring 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



admonishing and persuading them, with every affecting tes- 
timony of parental tenderness ; so this spiritual father conducted 
himself toward the children of transgression and impiety, seek- 
ing, by every affectionate method, to engage them in the pursuit 
of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord* 

38. " With respect to individuals, he was peculiarly careful 
to choose the fittest opportunities of conversing with them upon 
sacred subjects. In the day of their prosperity he sometimes 
spake to them as it were at a distance ; but in the day of their 
adversity, he redoubled his efforts, and followed them with the 
most familiar attention ; fully persuaded, that religious impres- 
sions can never be made in a more favourable season, than when 
the heart has been softened by previous afflicting providences. 
Were they destitute of spiritual knowledge ? — he explained to 
them the mysteries of evangelical truth. Were they presuming 
upon the mercy they had formerly abused ? — he awakened their 
fears by representations of that righteous wrath, which is revealed 
from heaven against all ungodliness. Were they doubtful of 
ever finding acceptance with God ; — he animated their hopes, 
and encouraged them to a steady dependence upon the promises 
of God; happily adapting his several applications to the cir- 
cumstances of his spiritual patients. Such was the ardent 
charity of this father in Christ toward the depraved and unbe- 
lieving, wherever he discovered them ; a charity, which was 
frequently no less effectual in its operations, than powerful in 
its essence. A number of instances of this might be produced, 
if need were." 

39. It was his concern for the salvation of his parishioners, 
of whatever description, which induced him to write pastoral 
letters to them, when at any time duty to others called him to 
commit them to the care of another minister for a few Weeks. 
These letters, which are many in number, all breathe the spirit 
of deep humility, ardent zeal, and active disinterested benevo- 
lence, and show, in a striking light, how he watched over the 
souls of his people, as one that must give an account. Justice 
to his character as a minister of Christ, and a servant of his 
Church, seems to require that I should insert at least one or twc 

U 



106 



THE LIFE QV 



of these, which shall be the first in order, written in the years 
1765 and 176G. I refer those who wish to see more of them 
to the volume of his letters, published by the Rev. Melville 
Home. The former is dated Bath, Oct. 30, and is as follows : 

" To those that love the Lord Jesus Christ, in and about 
Madeley : Peace be multiplied to you from God the Father, and 
from our Lord Jesus Christ, through the operations of the Holy 
Ghost. Amen. 

" By the help of divine Providence, and the assistance of 
your prayers, I came safe here. I was, and am still, a good 
deal weighed down under the sense of my own insufficiency to 
preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to poor, dying souls. 

" This place is the seat of Satan's gaudy throne : the Lord 
hath, nevertheless, a few names here, who are not ashamed of 
him, and of whom he is not ashamed, both among the poor and 
among the rich. There are not many of the last, though blessed 
be God for any one : it is a great miracle if one camel passes 
through the eye of a needle, or in other words, if one rich man 
enters into the kingdom of heaven. I thank God, none of you 
arc rich in the things of this world. You are freed from a 
double snare, even from Dives's portion in this life. May you 
know the happiness attending your state ! It is a mercy to be 
driven to the throne of grace, even by bodily want, and to live 
in dependance on divine mercy for a morsel of bread. 

" I have been sowing the seed the Lord hath given me both 
in Bath and Bristol, and I hope your prayers have not been lost 
upon me as a minister ; for though I have not been enabled to 
discharge my office, as I would, the Lord hath yet in some 
measure, stood by me, and overruled my foolishness and help- 
lessness. I am much supported by the thought that you bear 
me on your hearts, and when you come to the throne of grace 
to ask a blessing for me in the name of Jesus, the Lord doth in 
nowise cast you out. 

"In regard to the state of my soul, I find, blessed be God, 
that as my day is, so is my strength to travel on, either through 
good or bad report. My absence from you answers two good 
ends to me : — I feel more my insufficiency, and the need oi 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 107 

being daily ordained by Christ to preach his Gospel ; and I shall 
value the more my privileges among you, please God I return 
safely to you. I had yesterday a most advantageous offer made 
me of going, free of cost, to visit my mother, brothers, and sis- 
ters in the flesh, whom I have not seen for eighteen years 5 but 
I find my relations in the spirit nearer and dearer to me than 
my relations in the flesh. I have, therefore, rejected the kind 
offer, that I may return among you, and be comforted by the 
mutual faith both of you and me. 

" I hope, dear brethren, you improve much under the ministry 
of that faithful servant of God, Mr. Brown, whom Providence 
blesses you with. Make haste to gather the honey of know- 
ledge and grace as it drops from his lips ; and may I find the 
hive of your hearts so full of it, on my return, that I may share 
with you in the heavenly store. In order to this, beseech the 
Lord to excite your hunger and thirst for Jesus's flesh and blood, 
and to increase your desire of the sincere milk of the word. 
When people are hungry they will find time for their meals, and 
a good appetite does not think a meal a day too much. As you 
go to your spiritual meals do not forget to pray all the way, and 
to feast your souls in hopes of hearing some good news from 
heaven, and from Jesus, the faithful, loving friend whom you 
have there : and when you return, be sure to carry the un- 
searchable riches of Jesus's dying and rising love home to your 
houses, in the vessel of a believing heart. 

" Let your light be attended with the warmth of love. Be 
not satisfied to know the way to heaven, but walk in it immedi- 
ately, constantly, and joyfully. Be all truly in earnest : you 
may, indeed impose upon your brethren, by a formal attendance 
on the means of grace, but you cannot deceive the Searcher of 
hearts. Let him always see your hearts struggling towards him ; 
and if you fall through heaviness, sloth, or unbelief, do not make 
a bad matter worse by continuing helpless in the ditch of sin 
and guilt. Up, and away to the fountain of Jesus's blood. It 
will not only wash away the guilt of past sins, but strengthen 
3^ou to tread all iniquity under your feet for the time to come* 



108 



IRE LIFE OF 



Never forget that the soul of the diligent shall be made lat, and 
that the Lord will spue the lukewarm out of his mouth, unless 
he gets that love which makes a person fervent in spirit, diligent 
m business, serving the Lord. 

" You know the way to get this love is, 1. To consider the 
free mercy of God, and to believe in the pardoning love of 
Jesus, who died the just for the unjust to bring us to God. 
2. To be frequently, if not constantly applying this faith, with 
all the attention of your mind, and all the fervour of your 
heart, — ' Lord, I am lost, but Christ hath died.' 3. To try 
actually to love, as you can, by setting your affections on Christ, 
whom you see not ; and for his sake, on your brethren whom 
you do see. 4. To use much private prayer for yourselves and 
others ; and to try to keep up that communion with God and 
your absent brethren. I beg in order to this, that you will not 
forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of 
some is : and when you meet as a society, be neither backward, 
nor fo?-ward to speak. Esteem yourselves every one as the 
meanest in company, and be glad to sit at the feet of the lowest. 
If you are tempted against any one, yield not to the temptation, 
and pray much for that love which hopes all things, and puts 
the best construction even upon the worst of failings. I beg, 
for Christ's sake, I may find no divisions nor offences among you 
on my return. ' If there be any consolation in Christ, if any 
comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels 
and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the 
same love, being of one accord, and of one mind. Let nothing 
be done through strife or vain glory ; but in lowliness of mind, 
let each esteem other better than themselves.' 

" I earnestly request the continuance of your prayers for me, 
both as a minister, and as your companion in tribulation. Ask 
particularly, that the Lord would keep me from hurting his cause 
in these parts ; and that when Providence shall bring me back 
among you, I may be more thoroughly furnished for every good 
work. Pardon me, if I do not salute you all by name : my heart 
does it, if my pen does not. That the blessing of God in Jesus 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



109 



Christ may crown all your hearts, and all your meetings, is the 
earnest prayer of, my very dear brethren. Yours, &c. 

J. F." 

The other letter to which I referred was written about a year 
after, from Oakhall, which place and neighbourhood he seems 
to have had a peculiar reason for visiting at this time. It is in 
the following words : 

" To those who love or fear the Lord Jesus Christ at Made- 
ley : Grace, peace, and love, be multiplied to you from our God 
and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

" Providence, my dear brethren, called me so suddenly from 
you, that I had not time to take my leave, and recommend my- 
self to your prayers. But I hope the good Spirit of our God, 
which is the Spirit of love and supplication, has brought me to 
your remembrance, as the poorest and weakest of Christ's 
ministers, and consequently, as one whose hands stand most in 
need of being strengthened and lifted up by your prayers. 
Pray on then, for yourselves, for one another, and for him 
whose glory is to minister to you in holy things, and whose sor- 
row it is not to do it, in a manner more suitable to the majesty 
of the Gospel, and more profitable to your souls. 

" My heart is with you, and yet I bear patiently this bodily se- 
paration for three reasons. First, the variety of more faithful 
and able ministers, whom you have during my absence, is 
more likely to be serviceable to you, than my presence among 
you : and I would always prefer your profit to my satisfaction. 
Secondly, I hope Providence will give me those opportuni- 
ties of conversing and praying with a greater variety of ex- 
perienced Christians, which will tend to my own improvement, 
and I trust, in the end, to yours. Thirdly, I flatter myself, 
that after some weeks absence, my ministry will be recom- 
mended by the advantage of novelty, which, the more the 
pity, goes farther with some, than the word itself. In the 
meantime, I shall give you some advice, which, it may be, 
will prove both suitable and profitable to you. 



110 



THE LIFE OF 



" 1. Endeavour to improve daily under the ministry which 
Providence blesses you with. Be careful to attend it with 
diligence, faith, and prayer. Would it not be a great shame, 
if, when ministers come thirty or forty miles to offer you 
peace and pardon, strength and comfort, in the name of God, 
any of you should slight the glorious message, or hear it, as if 
it were nothing to you, and as if you heard it not? See, then, 
that you never come from a sermon without being more deeply 
convinced of sin and of righteousness. 

" 2. Use more prayer before you go to church. Consider 
that your next appearance there may be in a coffin ; and en- 
treat the Lord to give you now so to hunger and thirst after 
righteousness that you may be filled. Hungry people never 
go fasting from a feast. Call to mind the text I preached from, 
the last Sunday but one before I left you. Wherefore laying 
aside all malice, <f*c. 1 Pet. ii. 1. 

" 3. When you are under the word, beware of sitting as judges 
rather than as criminals. Many judge of the manner, matter, 
voice, and person of the preacher. You, perhaps, judge all 
the congregation, when you should judge yourselves worthy of 
eternal death, and yet, worthy of eternal life, through the 
worthiness of Him, who stood and was condemned at Pilate's 
bar for you. The moment you have done crying to God. 
as guilty, or thanking Christ, as reprieved criminals, you have 
reason to conclude that this advice is levelled at you. 

" 4. When you have used a mean of grace, and do not find 
yourselves sensibly quir.kened, let it be a matter of deep humi- 
liation to you. For want of repenting of their unbelief, and 
hardness of heart, some get into a habit of deadness and indo- 
lence; so that they come to be as insensible, and as little 
ashamed of themselves for it as stones. 

" 5. Beware of the inconsistent behaviour of those who com- 
plain they are full of wanderings, in the evening, under the 
word, when they have suffered their minds to wander from Christ 
all the day long. O ! get acquainted with him, that you may 
walk in him, and with him. Whatsoever you do or say. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



111 



especially in the things of God, do or say it as if Christ were be- 
fore, behind, and on every side of you. Indeed he is so, whether 
you consider it or not ; for if when he visibly appeared on earth, 
he called himself the Son of Man who is in heaven, how much 
more then, is he present on earth now, that he makes his imme- 
diate appearance in heaven ? Make your conscience maintain 
a sense of his blessed presence all the day long, and then all the 
day long you will have a feast. For can you conceive any thing 
more delightful, than to be always at the fountain of love, beau- 
ty, and joy : — at the spring of power, wisdom, goodness, and 
truth ? Can there be a purer and more melting happiness, than 
to be with the best of fathers, the kindest of brothers, the most 
generous of benefactors, and the tenderest of husbands ? Now 
Jesus is all this, and much more to the believing soul. O ! be- 
lieve, my friends, in Jesus now, through a continual now. And, 
until you can thus believe, mourn over your unbelieving hearts : 
drag them to him, as you can; think of the efficacy of his 
blood shed for the ungodly, and wait for the spirit of faith from 
on high. 

" 6. Some of you wonder, why you cannot believe ; why you 
cannot see Jesus with the eye of your mind, and delight in him 
with all the affections of your heart. I apprehend the reason to 
be one of these, or, perhaps, all of them. 

" First, You are not poor, lost, undone, helpless sinners in your- 
selves. You indulge spiritual and refined self-righteousness *, 
you are not yet dead to the law, and quite slain by the command- 
ment. Now the kingdom of heaven belongs to none but the 
poor in spirit. Jesus came to save none but the lost. What 
wonder, then, if Jesus be nothing to you, and if you do not live 
in his kingdom of peace, righteousness, and joy in the Holy 
Ghost? 

" Secondly, Perhaps you spend your time in curious reasonings f 
instead of casting yourselves down as forlorn sinners, at Christ 7 * 
feet; leaving it to him to bless you, when, and in the manner, 
and degree he pleases. Know, that he is the wise and sovereign 
Lord, and that it is your duty to lie before him as clay — as 
fools— as sinful nothings. 



112 



f HE LIFE OF 



" Thirdly, Perhaps some of you wilfully keep idols of one 
kind or other ; you indulge some sin against light and knowledge, 
and it is neither matter of humiliation, nor confession to you. 
The love of praise, of the world, of money, and of sensual 
gratifications, when not lamented, are as implacable enemies to 
Christ, as Judas and Herod. How can you believe, seeing you 
seek the honour that cometh of men? Hew, then, your Agags in 
pieces before the Lord : run from your Delilahs to Jesus ; cut 
off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye that offends you. 
Come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and 
I ivill receive you. Nevertheless, when you strive, care not to 
make yourself a righteousness of your strivings. Remember 
that meritorious, justifying righteousness, is finished and brought 
in, and that your works can no more add to it, than your sins 
can diminish from it. Shout, then, the Lord our righteous- 
ness ; and if you feel yourselves undone sinners, humbly, yet 
boldly say, In the Lord I have righteousness and strength. 

" When I was in London I endeavoured to make the most of 
my time ; that is to say, to hear, to receive, and practise the 
word. Accordingly I went to Mr. Whitefield , s tabernacle, and 
heard him give his society a most excellent exhortation upon 
love. He began by observing, ' That when the apostle St. 
John was old, and past walking and preaching, he would not for- 
sake the assembling himself with the brethren, as the manner of 
too many is, upon little or no pretence at all. On the contrary, 
he got himself carried to their meeting, and with his last thread 
of voice, preached to them his final sermon, consisting of this 
one sentence, My little children, love one another.^ I wish, I 
pray, / earnestly beseech you, to follow that evangelical, apostoli- 
cal advice ; and till God make you all little children, little 
in your own eyes, and simple as little children, give me 
leave to say, my dear brethren, love one another, and of 
course judge not, provoke not, and be not shy of one ano- 
ther ; but bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law 
of Christ. Yea, bear with one another's infirmities, and do not 
easily cast off any one ; no, not for sin, except it be obstinately 
persisted in. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



113 



a My sheet is full, and so is my heart, of good wishes for you, 
and ardent longings after you all. When I return, let me have 
the comfort of finding you all believing and loving. Farewell, 
my dear brethren. The blessing of God be with you all ! This 
is the earnest desire of your unworthy minister, 

J. F.» 

40. The same concern for the spiritual welfare of his flock, 
together with the very mean opinion which he had formed of 
himself, induced him from time to time to invite other ministers 
to visit his parish, and assist him to make known to the inhabi- 
tants thereof the riches of the grace of God. The Rev. Mr* 
John Wesley frequently visited him; and many are the in- 
vitations which we find to Mr. Charles Wesley, in his letters to 
that servant of God. Nor did he confine his invitations to 
ministers of the established church, but requested the aid even 
of such as had not been episcopally ordained. In or about the 
year 1764, he writes as follows to Mr. Mather, a well known and 
eminent preacher in Mr. Wesley's connexion. " I desire you 
will call at the Bank* as often as you have opportunity. An 
occasional exhortation from you or your fellow-labourer, at the 
Bank, Dale, &c. will be esteemed a favour; and I hope that my 
stepping as Providence directs, to any of your places (leaving 
to you the management of the Societies) will be deemed no en- 
croachment. In short, we need not make two parties : I know 
but one heaven below, and that is Jesus's love ; let us both go 
and abide in it, and when we have gathered as many as we can 
to go with us, too many will still stay behind." May 27, 1766, 
he says to a friend, " The coming of Mr. Wesley's preachers into 
my parish gives me no uneasiness. As I am sensible that every- 
body does better, and, of course, is more acceptable than my- 
self, I should be sorry to deprive any one of a blessing ; and 1 
rejoice that the work of God goes on by any instrument, or in 
any place. 

* A place about five miles from his parish, on which he had bestowed much 
labour, and where he had gathered a small society, 

15 



114 



THE LIFE OF 



41. Nor did he refuse the help even of such as differed from 
him in judgment, and that as to points which have been always 
thought, in the Christian church, of considerable importance, 
supposing he had reason to think that they loved our Lord Jesus 
Christ in sincerity. It is well known that he was firmly estab- 
lished in the belief of the doctrine of General Redemption; 
yet he was glad to receive any pious minister of a contrary sen- 
timent, and to give him an opportunity of calling sinners to 
repentance in his parish. This appears from the following let- 
ter to the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, dated Madeley, May 18, 
1767, which speaks of Capt. Scott as having preached at Made- 
ley, on Mr. Fletcher's invitation, and urges Mr. Whitefield to 
visit them also for the same purpose. I insert this letter here, 
because it is a striking picture of the state of his mind at this 
time, and breathes that spirit of humility, benevolence, and zeal, 
for which he was so conspicuous through his whole life. 

" Rev. and dear Sir, 

M I am confounded when I receive a letter from you ; present 
and eternal contempt from Christ and all his members is what I 
deserve. A sentence of death is my due ; but, instead of it, I 
am favoured with lines of love. God write a thousand, for 
them, upon your own heart ! and help you to read, with still 
more triumphant and humbler demonstrations of gratitude, 
redeeming love, so deeply engraven upon the palms of our Sa- 
viour's hands, and to assist many thousands more to spell out 
the mysterious words ! 

" Your mentioning my poor ministrations among your con- 
gregation opens again a wound of shame that was but halt 
healed. 1 feel the need of asking God, you, and your hearers 
pardon, for weakening the glorious matter of the Gospel, by 
my wretched broken manner ; and spoiling the heavenly pow er 
of it, by the uncleanness of my heart and lips. I should be glad 
to go and be your curate some time this year ; but I see no 
opening, nor the least prospect of any. What between the 
dead and the living, a parish ties one dow r n more than a wife. 
If 1 could go any where this year it should be to Yorkshire, to 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



115 



accompany Lady Huntingdon, according to a design that I had 
half formed last year ; but I fear that I shall be debarred even 
from this. I set out, God willing, to-morrow morning for Tre- 
vecka, to meet her Ladyship there, and to show her the way to 
Madeley, where she proposes to stay three or four days, in her 
way to Derbyshire. What chaplain she will have there, I know- 
not ; God will provide. I rejoice, that though you are sure of 
heaven, you have still a desire to inherit the earth, by being a 
peacemaker. Somehow, you will enjoy the blessing that others 
may possibly refuse. 

"Last Sunday sevfinnight, Captain Scott preached to my 
congregation a sermon, which was more blessed, though preached 
only upon my horse-block, than a hundred of those I preach in 
the pulpit. I invited him to come and treat her Ladyship next 
Sunday with another, now the place is consecrated. If you 
should ever favour Shropshire with your presence, you shall 
have the captain's or the parson's pulpit, at your option. Many 
ask me whether you will not come to have some fruit here also ; 
what must I answer them ? I, and many more, complain of a 
stagnation of the work. What must we do ? Every thing buds 
and blossoms about us, yet our winter is not over. I thought 

Mr. N , who hath been three weeks in Shropshire, would 

have brought the turtle-dove along with him ; but I could not 
prevail upon him to come to this poor Capernaum. I think I 
hardly ever met his fellow for a judicious spirit. Still, what 
hath God done in him, and me ? I am out of hell, and mine 
eyes have seen also something of his salvation ; though I must 
and do gladly yield to him and all my brethren, yet I must and 
will contend, that my being in the way to heaven makes me as 
rich a monument of mercy as he or any of them. O that I 
may feel the wonderful effect of the patience that is manifested 
towards me ! Lord, break me, and make me a vessel capable 
of bearing thy name, and the sweet savour of, it, to my fellow 
sinners ! Ask this for me, dear Sir, and present my Christian 
respects to Mrs. Whitefield, Mr. Hardy and Keen, Mr. Joyce, 
Croom, and Wright. Tell Mr. Keen I am a letter in his debt, 
and postponed writing it, till I have had such a sight of Christ, as 



iiu 



THE LIFE *F 



to breathe his iove through every line. I am, Rev. and dear Sir, 
with, blessed be God, a measure of sincere affection and respecf- 
your willing, though halting and unworthy servant, 

J. F." 

42. The inexpressible concern which he felt for the enlarge- 
ment of the kingdom of Christ, and the salvation of souls, in- 
duced him not only to speak concerning divine things in all 
companies, where he had any prospect of doing good thereby j 
but also, as we have already seen, to write spiritual letters from 
time to time, to sundry persons, friends nr strangers, who ap- 
peared to need advice, reproof, or consolation, and especially to 
such as were afflicted. The reader may find many of these in 
that small collection of his letters before mentioned, published 
first in 1791, and since then frequently republished. All these 
letters are excellent, especially those which are addressed to 
persons under affliction. For the sake of such as have not the 
volume at hand, and to give the reader a further specimen of 
his manner of writing to his friends, particularly such as had 
laid him under obligations by their favours, or were in a state of 
affliction, I shall here insert two of his letters written about this 
time. To one, from whom he seems to have received a present 
of some articles of wearing apparel, he writes as follows : 

" My very dear Friend, 
" The providence of our good God brought me safe here last 
Thursday, loaded with a sense of your excessive kindness, and 
my excessive unworthiness of it. Your Araunah-like spirit 
shames and distresses me : I am not quite satisfied about your 
evasions with respect to the bill ; and though I grant it more 
blessed to give than to receive, I think you should not be so sel- 
fish as to engross all that blessedness to yourself. Nevertheless 
I drop my upbraidings, not to lose that time in them which 1 
should save to thank you, and to praise Jesus. I thank you. 
then, for all your favours, but above all for your secret prayers 
for a poor, unworthy, unprofitable wretch, who deserves neither 
the name of a minister, nor of a Christian. If you are so kind 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



as to continue them (which I earnestly beg you will) I beseech 
you pray that I may have power to tarry at the footstool of di- 
vine mercy for a day of Pentecost, till I am endued with power 
from on high for the work of the ministry, and the blessings of 
Christianity. 

" I know not whether I am wrong in this respect, but I expect 
a power from on high to make me what I am not, — an instru- 
ment to show forth the praises of the Redeemer, and to do some 
good to the souls of my fellow creatures. Until this power 
come, it appears to me that I spend my paltry strength in vain, 
and that I might almost as well sit still. But I know I must keep 
rowing, though the wind be contrary, till Jesus come walking 
upon the waters, though it were in the last watch of the night. 

" You see that while you praise on the top of the mountain, 
I hang my untuned harp on the mournful willow at the bottom. 
But Jesus was in Gethsemane as well as on Tabor, and while 
he blesses you, he sympathizes with me. But tins is speaking 
too much about self; good and bad self must be equally denied, 
and He that is ' the fulness of Him who fills all in all,' must fill 
my thoughts, my desires, my letters, and my all. Come, then, 
Lord, come and drop into our souls, as the dew into Gideon's 
fleece : drop thy blessing on these lines, and may thy sweet 
name, Jesus, Emmanuel, Gob with us, be as ointment and 
rich perfumes poured upon my dear sister's soul ! Spread thy 
wings of love over her ; reward her an hundred-fold in tem- 
poral and spiritual blessings, for the temporal and spiritual mer- 
cies she hath bestowed upon me as thy servant ; and vouchsafe 
to make and keep me such ! 

" I want you to write to me what you think of the life of 
faith, and whether you breathe it without interruption ; whether 
you never leave that rich palace — Christ, to return to that dun- 
geon, self; what your feelings are when faith is at its lowest ebb, 
and when it acts most powerfully ? I should be glad also if 
you would answer these questions, — What views have you of 
another world ? What sense have you of the nearness of Christ ? 
What degree of fellowship with the souls nearest your heart ? 
What particular intimations of the will of God, in intricate 



113 



THE LIFE OF 



affairs and material steps ? and whether you can reconcile the 
life of faith with one wrong temper in the heart ? 

" If you are so good as to answer these questions at large, you 
will oblige me more than if you were to send me two hundred 
waistcoats, and as many pair of stockings. Jesus is life, love, 
power, truth, and righteousness. Jesus is ours \ yea, he is over 
all, through all, and in us all. May we so fathom this mystery, 
and so evidence the reality of it, that many may see, and fear, 
and turn to the Lord! My kind love and thanks wait upon 
your sisters, kc. Farewell in Jesus. Pray for your obliged 
unworthy servant, 

J. F." 

To Miss Ireland, who was under affliction, and approaching 
fast towards her great and final change, his words are : 

" My dear afflicted Friend, Dec. 5, 1768. 

" I hear you are returned from the last journey you took in 
search of bodily health. Your heavenly Father sees fit to deny 
it you, not because he hateth you ( for whom the Lord lovcth he 
chasteneth.) but because health and life might be fatal snares to 
your soul, out of which you could not escape, but by tedious ill- 
ness and an early death. Who knows also, whether by all you 
have suffered, and still suffer, our gracious Lord does not intend 
to kill you to the flesh and to the world, and both to you ? Be- 
sides, our hearts are so stupid, and our insensibility is so great, 
that the Father of our spirit sees it necessary to put some of his 
sharpest and longest thorns into our flesh, to make us go to our 
dear Jesus for the balmy graces of his Spirit. 

" I believe some are driven out of all the refuges of crafty and 
indolent nature, only by the nearest and last approaches of that 
faithful minister and servant of Christ. — Death. Of this I had 
a remarkable instance no longer ago than last Monday, when God 
took to himself one of my poor afflicted parishioners, a boy of 
fifteen years of age, who was turned out of the infirmary two 
years ago as incurable. From that time he grew weaker every 
day by the running of a wound ; but his poor soul did not gather 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



119 



strength. In many respects one would have thought his afflic- 
tions were lost upon him. He seemed to rest more in his suffer- 
ings, and in his patience under them, than in the Saviour's blood 
and righteousness. Being worn to a skeleton, he took to his 
death-bed ; where I found him the week before last, with his 
candle burning in the socket, and no oil seemingly in the ves- 
sel. I spent an hour in setting before him the greatness of his 
guilt in this respect, that he had been so long under the rod of 
God, and had not been whipt out of his careless unbelief to the 
bosom of Jesus Christ. He fell under the conviction, confessed 
that particular guilt, and began to call on the Lord with all' the 
earnestness his dying frame would allow. This was on the 
Wednesday, and on the Wednesday following, the God who de- 
livers those that are appointed to die, set one of his feet upon 
the Rock, and the next Sunday the other. He had chiefly used 
that short petition of the Lord's prayer, Thy kingdom come ; 
and spent his last hours in testifying, as his strength would allow, 
that the kingdom was come, and he was going to the King, to 
whom he invited his joyful mournful mother to make the best 
of her way after him. Five or six days before his death, my 
wicked, unbelieving heart might have said, To what purpose 
hath God afflicted so long and so heavily this poor worm ? But 
the Lord showed, that he had been all that while driving the 
spear of consideration and conviction, till at last it touched him 
in a sensible part, and made him cry to the Saviour in earnest. 
And whoever called upon him in vain ? No one. Not even 
that poor indolent collier-boy, who for two years would not so 
much as cross the way to hear me preach. Yet how good was 
the Lord ! because his body was too weak to bear any terrors in 
his mind, he showed him mercy without. The moment 1 heard 
him pray, and saw him feel after a Saviour, my fears on his ac- 
count vanished ; and though he had not been suffered to testify so 
clearly of God's kingdom, yet I should have had a joyful hope 
that God had taken him home. 

" Like the poor youth and myself, you have but one enemy, 
my dear friend — an indolent, unbelieving heart ; but the Lord 
hath driven it to a corner, to make you cry to him who hath 




.120 



1 HE Lift Of 



been waiting at the door all these years of trouble, to bring you 
pardon, peace, and eternal life, in the midst of the pangs of 
bodily death. Jesus is his name. Salvation and love are his 
nature. He is the Father of eternity — your Father of course. 
All the love that is in Mr. Ireland's breast, is nothing to the 
abyss of love that is in your Creator's heart. A mother may 
forget her sucking child, but I will not forget thee, says he, to 
every poor distressed soul that claims his help. 

" O fear not, my friend, to say, I will arise and go to this 
Father, though I have sinned greatly against Heaven, and in hit 
sight. Lo, he rises, and runs to meet and embrace you. He 
hath already met you in the virgin's womb; there he did so 
cleave to your flesh and spirit, that he assumed both, and wears 
them as a pledge of love to you. Claim in return, claim as you 
can, his blood and Spirit. Both are now the property of ever) 
dying sinner, that is not above receiving, by faith, the unspeakable 
gift. 

" Your father has crossed the sea for you. — Jesus has done 
more. He hath crossed the abyss that lies between heaven and 
earth, between the Creator and the creature. He has waded 
through the sea of his tears, blood, and agonies, not to take you 
to the physician at Montpelier, but to become your Physician 
and Saviour himself, to support you under all your bodily tor- 
tures, to sanctify all your extremities, and to heal your soul by 
his multiplied stripes. Your father has spared no expense to 
restore you to health ; but Jesus, who wants you in your prime, 
hath spared no blood in his veins, to wash you from your sins, 
write your pardon, and seal your title to glory. 

" O my friend, delay not cheerfully to surrender yourself to 
this good Shepherd. He will gladly lay you on the arm of his 
power, torn as you are with the bruises of sin and disease, and 
will carry you triumphantly to his heavenly sheepfold. Look 
not at your sins without beholding his blood and righteousness. 
Eye not death but to behold through that black door your gra- 
cious Saviour, saying, Fear not, O thou of little faith, wherefore 
dost thou doubt ? Consider not eternity but as the palace where 
you are going to enter with the Bridegroom of souls, and rest 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



121 



from all your sins and miseries. View not the condemning 
law of God, but as made honourable by Him who was a curse 
for you, and bore the malediction of the law, by hanging, bleed- 
ing, and dying, on the cursed tree in your place. If you think 
of hell, let it be to put you in mind to believe, that the blood 
of God incarnate hath quenched its devouring flames. If 
you have no comfort, mistrust not Jesus on that account; 
on the contrary, take advantage from it to give greater glory 
to God, by believing as Abraham, in hope against hope. And 
let this be your greatest comfort, that Jesus, who had all faith 
and patience, cried for you in his dying moments, My God, 
my God, zvhy hast thou forsaken me? As your strength will 
bear exertion, and his grace apprehended will allow, surren- 
der yourself constantly to him as the purchase of his blood, 
and invite him earnestly to you as a poor worm perishing 
without him. In this simple, Gospel way, wait the Lord's 
leisure, and he will comfort your heart. He will make all 
his goodness to pass before you here, or take you hence to 
show you, what you could not bear in flesh and blood, the 
direct beams of the uncreated beauty of your heavenly 
Spouse. 

" I hope you take care to have little, or nothing else men- 
tioned to and about you, but his praises and promises. 
Your tongue and your ears are going to be silent in the 
grave ; now, or never, use them to hear and speak good of his 
name. Comfort your weeping friends. Reprove the back- 
sliders. Encourage seekers. Water, and you shall be water- 
ed. Death upon you makes you, through Christ a mother 
in Israel. Arise, as Deborah. Remember the praying, be- 
lieving, preaching, though dying thief: and be not afraid to 
drop a word for him who openeth a fountain of blood for 
you in his dying tortured body. Suffer, live, die, at his feet 
■ — and you will soon revive, sing, and reign in his bosom for 
evermore. Farewell in the Conqueror of death and Prince of 
Life. 

J. F.» 

'#> 16 — 



122 



THE LIF« OF 



43. The pious lady addressed in the preceding'letter, died, 
it appears, soon after, and we find Mr. Fletcher, in March fol- 
lowing, comforting her father, on the event of her death, and of 
the affliction of Mrs. Ireland, and a sister. Indeed he had 
most tenderly sympathized with him in his sorrow during her 
affliction, and laboured to prepare his mind, by his consolatory 
letters and conversation, for the change, which, it was but to* 
evident, was daily approaching. 

" Uncertain as I am," says he, the July preceding, " whether 
your daughter is yet alive, or whether the Lord hath called 
her from this vale of darkness and tears, I know not what 
to say to you on the subject, but this, that our heavenly 
Father appoints all things for the best. If her days of suffer- 
ing are prolonged, it is to honour her with a conformity to the 
crucified Jesus ; if they are shortened, she will have drunk all 
her cup of affliction ; and I flatter myself, that she has found, 
at the bottom of it, not the bitterness and the gall of her sins, 
but the honey and wine of our divine Saviour's righteousness, 
and the consolations of his Spirit. 

M I had lately some views of death, and it appeared to me in 
the most brilliant colours. What is it to die, but to open our 
eyes after the disagreeable dream of this life, after the black 
sleep in which we are buried on this earth ? It is to break the 
prison of corruptible flesh and blood, into which sin hath cast 
us; to draw aside the curtain, to cast off the material vail, 
which prevents us from seeing the Supreme Beauty and Good- 
ness face to face. It is to quit our polluted and tattered 
raiment, to be invested with robes of honour and glory; 
and to behold the Sun of Righteousness in brightness without 
an interposing cloud. O my dear friend, how lovely is death, 
when we look at it in Jesus Christ! To die, is one of the 
greatest privileges of the Christian. 

" If Miss Ireland is still living, tell her a thousand times, that 
Jesus is the resurrection and the life ; that he hath vanquished 
and disarmed death ; that he hath brought life and immortality 
to light; and that all things are ours, whether life or death. 



THE REV. fOHN FLETCHER. 



123 



eternity or time. These are those great truths upon which she 
ought to risk, or rather to repose her soul with full assurance. 
Every thing is shadow and a lie in comparison of the reality of 
the Gospel. If your daughter be dead, believe in Jesus, and you 
shall find her again in him, who fills all in all, who encircles the 
material and spiritual world in his arms ; — in the immense bosom 
of his Divinity. 

" I have not time to write to Mrs. Ireland ; but I entreat her 
to keep her promise, and to inform me what victories she has 
gained over the world, the flesh, and sin. Surely when a daugh- 
ter is dead or dying, it is high time for a father and a mother to 
die to all things below, and aspire, in good earnest, to that 
eternal life which God has given us in Jesus Christ. Adieu, 
my dear friend. - Yours, 

J. F." 

Again, October 14, he writes, " If the last efforts of the phy- 
sicians fail with respect to Miss Ireland, it will at least be a con- 
solation to you, to know that they have been tried. When the 
last reed shall break under her hand, that will be the great sig- 
nal to her to embrace the cross and the Crucified, the Tree of 
life and the fruit it bears, which give everlasting health and 
vigour. When we consider these things with an evangelical 
eye, we discover that every thing dies. Things visible are all 
transitory ; but invisible ones abide for ever. If Christ is our 
life and our resurrection, it is of little importance whether 
we die now, or thirty years hence ; and if we die without em- 
bracing him, by dying now, we shall have abused his mercies 
thirty years less, than if we had lived so many years longer. 
Every thing turns out well, both life and death, our own and 
that of those who are near to us." 

After receiving tidings of her death, he says, 

" My dear Friend, 
" The Lord is desirous of making you a true disciple of his 
dear Son, the Man of sorrows, by sending you affliction upon 
affliction. A sister and a wife, who appear to hasten to the 



124 "fHE LIFE OF 

grave, in which you have so lately laid your only daughter, 
place you in circumstances of uncommon affliction. But in 
this see the ringer of Him, who works all in all, and who com- 
mands us to forsake all to follow him. Believe in him ; believe 
that he does all for the best, and that all shall work for good to 
those who love him, and you shall see the salvation of God : 
and with your temptations and trials, he shall open a door of 
deliverance for you and yours. His goodness to your daughter 
ought to encourage your faith and confidence for Mrs. Ireland. 
Offer her upon the altar, and you shall see, that, if it be best for 
her and you, his grace will suspend the blow which threatens 
you." 

Two months afterward he adds, " 1 sympathize with you with 
all my heart, and I pray that you may have patience and wisdom 
proportioned to your difficulties. You must take up your cross, 
and pray in secret, like a man whose earthly cisterns are broken 
on every side, and who hath need of consolation from feeling 
the fountain of living water springing up in his soul unto eter- 
nal life. I have every moment need to follow the advice I 
give to you ; but my carnal mind makes strong resistance. 1 
must enter into life by death : I must be crucified on the cross 
of Christ, before I can live by the power of his resurrection. 
The Lord give us grace to die to ourselves ; for it is not enough 
to die to our relatives. Blessed indeed is that union with Jesus 
Christ, by which a believer can cast upon that Rock of .Ages, 
not only his burdens, but himself — the heaviest burden of all. O 
Lord, give us power to- believe with that faith which works by 
the prayer of confidence and love! I am, &c. 

J. F." 

Thus this man of God laboured to be useful in every possi- 
ble way. By preaching, conversing, writing ; by instructing, re- 
proving, encouraging, exhorting ; by warning and beseeching ; 
byword and deed; by acting and suffering; and especially by 
letting his light shine before men, and exhibiting to their view 
an example of sincere and genuine piety and virtue, he en- 
deavoured, with the most ardent zeal and unwearied diligence. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 125 

to advance the honour and interest of his divine Master. At 
home and abroad, in company and alone, in public and in 
private, he ceased not to keep in view and prosecute his great 
and important design. 

But although, as will readily be allowed by , every unpre- 
judiced reader of this narrative, " he* was far more abundant 
in his public labours than the greater part of his companions 
in the holy ministry; yet," as Mr. Gilpin justly observes, 
" these bore but little proportion to those internal exercises 
of prayer and supplication, to which he was wholly given up 
in private. The former, of necessity, were frequently dis- 
continued, but the latter were almost uninterruptedly main- 
tained from hour to hour. He lived in the spirit of prayer ; 
and whatever employments he was engaged in, this spirit 
was constantly manifested through them all. Without this he 
neither formed any design, nor entered upon any duty : 
without this, he neither read, nor conversed; without this, 
he neither visited, nor received a visitant. 

" Before I was of sufficient age," proceeds the last men- 
tioned reverend author, " to take holy orders, I thankfully 
embraced the offered privilege of spending a few months 
beneath the roof of this exemplary man, to whom I was at 
that time an entire stranger; and I well remember how 
solemn an impression was made upon my heart, by the man- 
ner in which he received me. He met me at his door, with 
a look of inexpressible benignity ; and conducting me by the 
hand into his house, intimated a desire of leading me im- 
mediately into the presence of that God, to whom the govern- 
ment of his little family was ultimately submitted. Instantly 
he fell upon his knees, and poured out an earnest prayer, 
that my present visit might be rendered both advantageous 
and comfortable, that the secret of the Lord might rest upon 
our common tabernacle, and that our society might be crowned 
by an intimate fellowship with that promised Immanuel, in 
whom all the families of the earth are called to inherit a 

* Gilpin's Notes. 



126 



THE LIFE OF 



blessing. This may serve as a specimen of the manner in which 
he was accustomed to receive his guests. 

45. " In his social prayers he paid but little attention to those 
rules, which have been laid down, with respect to the composi- 
tion and order of these devotional exercises. As the Spirit 
gave him utterance, 60 he made his requests known unto God. 
But, while he prayed with the Spirit, he prayed with the under- 
standing also. His words flowed spontaneously, and without 
any premeditation, yet always wonderfully adapted to the occa- 
sion. Nothing impertinent, artificial, or superfluous, appeared 
in his addresses to God : and while he presented those addresses, 
there was a solemnity and animation in his manner which tended 
not only to edify, but to quicken and exalt the soul. There 
have been seasons of supplication, in which he appeared to be 
carried out far beyond the ordinary limits of devotion ; when, 
like his Lord upon the Mount, while he has continued to pour 
out his mighty prayer, the fashion of his countenance has been 
changed, and his face has appeared as the face of an angel. 
None, except those who have frequently joined with him in 
this enlivening duty, can have any just conception of the man- 
ner in which he performed it. They who have enjoyed this 
privilege, have seen and felt what is not to be described : and 
to others, it can only be said, that his prayer was the prayer of 
faith, always fervent, often effectual, and invariably a mingled 
flow of supplication and gratitude, humility and confidence, 
resignation and fervour, adoration and love. 

46. " By the ardour of his social prayers, some judgment 
may be formed of his secret supplications : but of his frequent 
vehement struggles, and unutterable breathings, in these private 
exercises, he alone can judge who seeth in secret. His deepest 
and most sensible communications with God were enjoyed in 
those hours when the door of his closet was shut against human 
creatures as well as human cares. And though he rejoiced to 
lift up his hands in company with his friends, yet, when his heart 
was at any time peculiarly inflamed with desire, or pressed with 
affliction, he would say to his friends, as Christ to his disciples, 
Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. Hrs closet was the 



THE REV, JOHN FLETCHER. 



127 



favourite retirement, to which he constantly retreated, when- 
ever his public duties allowed him a season of leisure. Here 
he was privily hidden, as in the presence of God. Here he 
would either patiently wait for, or joyfully triumph in the loving 
kindness of the Lord. Here he would plunge himself into the 
depths of humiliation ; and from hence, at other seasons, as from 
another Pisgah, he would take a large survey of the vast inheri- 
tance, which is reserved for the saints. Here he would ratify 
his solemn engagements to God ; and here, like the good king 
Hezekiah, he would spread the various circumstances of his 
people at the feet of their common Lord. In all cases of diffi- 
culty he would retire to this consecrated place to ask counsel of 
the Most High ; and here, in times of uncommon distress, he has 
continued during whole nights in prayer before God. 

47. " At one period of his life, he was brought into such an 
intricate situation, that he was wholly at a loss to discover what 
God required at his hand : and such was the difficulty before 
him, that the opinions of his most experienced friends could 
afford him but little light with respect to it. In this state,, for 
three months successively, he spread the intricacies of his case 
before the Judge of all the earth, entreating that he would di- 
rect the course of his conduct, by the order of his providence, 
and the influence of his Spirit. His request was continued til! 
an answer was obtained, which was not till the wall of his cham- 
ber could exhibit a proof of his vehement intercession ; that 
part of it, against which he was accustomed to kneel, appearing 
deeply stained with the breath he had spent in fervent supplica- 
tion : such was the ardour of his spirit, and such the devotion 
of his heart ! The above circumstance was discovered by 
some about him, who were well acquainted with his manner in 
trying situations. 

48. " His preaching was perpetually preceded, accompanied, 
and succeeded by prayer. Before he entered upon the per- 
formance of his duty he requested of the great Master of assem- 
blies a subject adapted to the conditions of his people ; earnestly 
soliciting for himself, wisdom, utterance, and power ; for them 
a serious frame, an unprejudiced mind, and a retentive heart. 



THE LIFE OF 



This necessary preparation for the profitable performance of 
his ministerial duties, was of longer or shorter duration, accord- 
ing to his peculiar state at the time : and frequently he could 
form an accurate judgment of the effect that would be pro- 
duced in public, by the languor or enlargement he had expe- 
rienced in private. The spirit of prayer accompanied him from 
the closet to the pulpit ; and while he was outwardly employed 
in pressing the truth upon his hearers, he was inwardly engaged 
in pleading that last great promise of his unchangeable Lord. 
I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. 

" From the great congregation he again withdrew to his 
sacred re treat, there requesting in secret, that a blessing might 
accompany his public labours, and that the seed which he had 
sown, being treasured up in honest and good hearts, migfit 
sooner or later become abundantly fruitful. 

49. t; While it is here recorded, that this faithful servant of 
God was accustomed to pray without ceasing, it must be noted, 
at the same time, as a distinguishing part of his character, that 
in every thing he gaze thanks. I lis heart was always in a 
grateful frame, and it was his chief delight to honour God by 
offe ring him thanks and praise. Frequently, when he has been 
engaged in recounting the gracious dealings of God with respect 
to himself, or his signal favours conferred upon the church, he 
has broke out in a strain of holy rejoicing, O that men icould 
therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the won- 
ders thai he doeth for the children of men ! He considered 
every unexpected turn of providence, as a manifestation of his 
Fathers good pleasure, and discerned causes of thanksgiving, 
either obvious or latent, in every occurrence. Thus, either in 
the expectation, or in the possession of promised mercies, he 
rejoiced evermore. The immediate causes of his joy were 
manifold, public and private, spiritual and temporal ; but they 
all were swallowed up in the advancement of Christ's kingdom 
upon earth. This he considered, as a subject of univeral 
rejoicing, and for this, he more especially desired to praist 
the name of God with a song, and to magnify it with thanks- 
giving. 



THE REV* JOHN FLETCHER* 



129 



30. u As he has justly expressed in his Portrait of St. Paul, 
p. 103, 2d edition — 4 Pastors, who pray for their flocks, pray not 
in vain. Their fervent petitions are heard, sinners are con- 
verted, the faithful are edified, and thanksgiving is shortly joined 
to supplication.'— With respect to himself it was abundantly so. 
The seed which he had watered with his tears, and followed 
with his prayers, produced at length a plentiful harvest. His 
ministry was attended with unusual success, and a considerable 
body of his people saluted each other as brethren in Christ. 
His exultation over these, in their regenerate estate, was equal 
to his former solicitude on their account ; and as often as an 
occasion has presented itself of leading a penitent prodigal into 
the household of God, his carriage has been marked with every 
possible demonstration of joy. Leading the returning wanderer 
into his spiritual family, he would cry out, with a countenance 
full of holy triumph, " If there be joy in the presence of the 
angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, then it is meet 
that we should rejoice and be glad together this day, for this my 
son was dead and is alive again, he teas lost and is found,— His 
joy was continually receiving some accession of this kind. 
From year to year, sinners were converted from the error of 
their ways, and believers were built up in their most holy faith : 
while he appeared among them as a happy father, rejoicing in 
their prosperity, and blessed in the blessings of his spiritual 
children. 

" Such were the different states of earnest prayer, and joyful 
praise, with which this evangelical preacher was deeply ac- 
quainted, and which mutually preceded and succeeded each 
other in his Christian experience. 

51. "It was observed to the disgrace of the ancient scribes, 
that they bound heavy burdens upon others, which they them- 
selves refused to touch with one of their fingers : and their 
uncharitable conduct in this respect, was publicly condemned 
by the blessed Jesus, who pronounced the severest judgments 
upon their self-indulgence. Contrasted with the carriage of 
those illiberal pretenders to piety, the conduct of Mr. Fletcher 
appearrd in a truly admirable and exemplary point of view 

1? 



130 



THE LIFE Of 



Far from subjecting others to those hardships and restraints, 
which he refused to impose upon himself, he cheerfully endea- 
voured to lighten the burdens of his brethren, though it was by 
redoubling -his own. He laboured to quicken, and not to retard, 
the progress of the weak and inexperienced. He compas- 
sionated their defects, and made excuse for their constitutional 
infirmities, in the manner of his gracious Master, who kindly 
apologized for the inattention of his sleeping disciples. 

" He studied to present the religion of Jesus in its most 
alluring form, not as a vial of wrath, but as a cup of consolation : 
not as a galling yoke, but as a sacred tie ; not as a depressing 
burden, but as a never-failing support. When he beheld the 
incautious entangled in the mazes of temptation, he tenderly 
lamented the effects of their indiscretion ; and instead of throw- 
ing unnecessary impediments in the way of their escape, he 
affectionately laboured to break through the snare and deliver 
the captive. If his brother was overtaken in a fault, he endea- 
voured to restore him in the spirit of meekness — if his conscience 
was wounded with a sense of guilt, he hastened to meet him 
with healing remedies — if he was overwhelmed with the dread 
of his besetting sin, and harassed with the apprehension of 
future miscarriages, he encouraged him to come boldly to the 
throne of grace, that he might obtain mercy, and fnd grace to 
help him in every time of need. In his whole deportment towards 
the ignorant and unfaithful, he copied the character of a skilful 
and affectionate preceptor, who keeps future difficulties as far 
removed as possible from the view of his pupils, accommodating 
their exercises to their several capacities, overlooking their past 
negligence, supplying their present deficiencies, and mentioning 
their poor attainments with commendation and praise. 

52. " But while his conduct towards others was marked with 
unusual lenity and tenderness, he exercised the strictest severity 
with regard to himself. He sought after an entire conformity 
to the perfect 7cill of God. And to accelerate his progress 
toward this desirable state, he cheerfully renounced his natural 
habits, and resolutely opposed his own will, unweariedly la- 
bouring to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



131 



of Christ, He struggled against the most innocent of his infir- 
mities ; he entered upon the most painful exercises ; and refused 
to allow himself in the least temporary indigencies, which 
were not perfectly consistent with a life of unfeigned mortifica- 
tion and self-denial. He engaged himself in every kind of 
spiritual lahour, with the most intense application, suffering no 
talent to remain unoccupied, nor any moment to pass by unim- 
proved : and so perfectly was he inured to habits of Christian 
industry, that he never discovered an inclination to sweeten the 
most laborious exercises with those refreshments and relaxa- 
tions which he esteemed not only allowable, but, in some cases, 
necessary, to his weaker brethren. Considering himself as a 
member of Christ's militant church, he complained of no hard- 
ships, nor thought any difficulty too great to be encountered in 
the course of his warfare. He was careful to act, in every 
instance, consistently with his high profession ; training himself 
up to spiritual hardness and activity, by a resolute attention to 
the strictest rules of Christian discipline ; preferring the path of 
duty before the lap of repose ; neither listening to the sugges- 
tions of fear, nor regarding the dictates of worldly prudence ; 
stifling even the necessary calls of nature, that he might follow, 
with less interruption, the leadings of grace ; and, finally, 
counting neither ease, nor interest, nor reputation, nor even life 
itself, dear to him, that he might finish his course with joy 



— — 
CHAPTER V. 



Of the Excursions he made to different Places, his first Visit to his 
native Country, his Office and Usefulness at Trevecka, and of 
the Steps whereby he was led to write on controversial Subjects, 

i. Although Mr. Fletcher was attached, in no common 

degree, to those among whom he was appointed to labour ; and 
although his endeavours were chiefly exercised for their spiritual 
benefit 5 yet was his heart enlarged also toward all the children 



132 



THE LIFE OF 



of God, by whatever name they were distinguished, or wherever 
the bounds of their habitation were fixed. And he was ready, 
at all times, as far as his duty to his parishioners would permit, 
to minister to them the word of life. " Considering himself as 
a debtor* both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians, he was ready, 
had it been possible, to have visited the uttermost parts of the 
earth with the truths of the Gospel : and wherever a Christian 
church was established, he appeared deeply interested in its 
welfare, expressing a vehement desire that it might be regulated, 
in all things, as the house of God, and become, to happy thou- 
sands, the gate of heaven^ When the members of any distant 
church were represented as exemplary for their faith, their 
zeal, or their love, he received the report of their advancement 
in grace with demonstrations of the sincerest joy, and publicly 
expressed his gratitude to that great Master of assemblies, zcho 
hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants. When the pro- 
fessors of Christianity, in any part of the world, were observed 
to grow weary of well-doing, either declining from the faith of 
the Gospel, or neglecting to walk worthy of their high vocation ; 
his heart was penetrated, on their account, with the most lively 
concern : he lamented their instability in secret, and watered 
his couch with his tears. When the spiritual vine, in some remote 
part of the vineyard, appeared to be in danger from the fury of 
the oppressor ; when her hedges were broken down and her fruit 
torn away by the hand of persecution, he entered deeply into 
the distresses of the suffering church ; he fasted, he wept, he 
prayed, making continual intercession before the great Lord of 
the vineyard, that he would look down from heaven, and visit 
the plant which he had formerly strengthened for himself ; that, 
spreading forth its boughs again unto the sea, and its branches 
unto the river, the hills might be covered with the shadow of 
it, and the land be filled with its fruits." 

2. With a view to promote the cause of Christ, which, of 
all other causes, lay nearest to his heart, he made excur- 
sions from time to time, not only into sundry towns and villa- 



* Gilpin's Notes. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



133 



ges of the neighbourhood, but to more distant parts of the 
kingdom. A person who was an eye-witness of the following 
transaction, informed Mr. Joseph Taylor, that in or about 
the year 1765, he and Mr. Sellon, of Breedon, in Leicester- 
shire, supplied each other's churches for a few Sabbaths. 
While Mr. Fletcher remained at Breedon, people of various 
descriptions flocked to hear him from all the parishes adja- 
cent. The clerk being much offended at seeing such crowds 
attend, because it occasioned a little more labour in cleaning 
the church, determined that persons from other parishes should 
not be admitted without paying each one penny. For this 
purpose he placed himself at the church door, and began to 
collect the money from them. A man who was grieved at 
the conduct of the clerk, went to meet Mr. Fletcher, and in- 
formed him of it. Mr. Fletcher hastened up the hill, saying, 
" I'll stop his proceeding." The clerk seeing Mr. Fletcher 
approach, quitted the post he had taken, and went to his 
desk. When the service was ended, Mr. Fletcher said to the 
congregation, " I have not felt my spirit so moved these six- 
teen years last past as I have done to-day. I have heard 
that the clerk of this parish has demanded, and has actually 
received money from divers strangers before he would suffer 
them to enter the church. I desire that all who have paid 
money this way for hearing the Gospel, will come to me, and 
I will return what they have paid. And as to this iniquitous 
clerk, his money perish with him." In 1767, he was in Wales 
and Yorkshire, as he also occasionally visited Bristol and Bath, 
during which time, as well as during his absence in the preced- 
ing year, the Rev. Mr. Brown was entrusted with the care of 
his flock. Of him Mr. Fletcher entertained a high opinion, and 
placed an entire confidence in his prudence, piety, and zeal. 
" I thank you," says he to Mr. Ireland, " for your care to pro- 
cure not only a supply for my church, but such an agreeable, ac- 
ceptable, and profitable one as Mr. Brown. I know none that 
should be more welcome than he. — Tell him, with a thousand 
thanks for his condescension, that I deliver my charge over to 



134 



THE LIFE OF 



him fully, and give him a carte blanche, to do or not to do, as the 
Lord shall direct him." How long Mr. Brown continued at 
Madeley I cannot say, nor whether he supplied Mr. Fletcher's 
church during the time the latter spent in his native country, in 
company with his faithful and tried friend, Mr. Ireland, in the 
spring of the year 1 770. He had formed the design of paying his 
friends this visit in the preceding spring, as appears by the follow- 
ing paragraph of a letter to the same friend, dated March 26, 
1769. 

" I shall be obliged to go to Switzerland, this year or the next, 
if I live, and the Lord permit. I have there a brother, a worthy 
man, who threatens to leave his wile and children to come and 
pay me a visit, if I do not go and see him myself. It is some 
time since our gracious God has convinced him of sin, and I 
have by me some of his letters, which give me great pleasure ; 
this circumstance has more weight with me than the settlement 
of my affairs." 

Nevertheless he did not go during that year, for at the close 
of it he writes from Madeley as follows : 

" Last night I received your obliging letter, and am ready to 
accompany you to Montpelier, provided you will go with me to 
Nyon. I shall raise about twenty guineas, and with that sum, 
a gracious Providence, and your purse, I hope we shall want 
for nothing. If the Lord send me, I should want nothing, though 
I had nothing, and though my fellow-traveller were no richer 
than myself. 

" I hope to be at Bristol soon to offer you my services to pack 
up. You desired to have a Swiss servant, and I offer myself to 
you in that capacity ; for I shall be no more ashamed of serv ing 
you, as far as I am capable of doing it, than I am of wearing 
your livery. 

" Two reasons (to say nothing of the pleasure of your com- 
pany) engage me to go with you to Montpelier — a desire to 
visit some poor Hugonots in the south of France, and the need 
I have to recover a little French before I go to converse with 

my compatriots. " 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



135 



3. The accomplishment, however, of his desire in their in- 
tended journey was further delayed for a few weeks, hy a cir- 
cumstance which he speaks of in the same letter in the following 
words. 

" The (popish) priest at Madeley is going to open his Mass- 
house, and I have declared war on that account last Sunday, 
and propose to strip the whore of Babylon and expose her naked- 
ness to-morrow. All the Papists are in a great ferment, and 
they have held meetings to consult on the occasion. One of 
their bloody bullies came to " pick up," as he said, a quarrel 
with me, and what would have been the consequence, had not I 
providentially had company with me, I cannot say. How far 
their rage may be kindled to morrow I don't know : but I ques- 
tion whether it will be right for me to leave the field in these 
circumstances. I forgot to mention that two of our poor igno- 
rant churchmen are going to join the Mass-house, which is also 
a cause of my having taken up arms. Farewell. 

Yours, J. F.» 

4. He preached the sermon intended the next Lord's day. 
The text, on which he grounded his doctrine, as I have reason 
to believe, from a manuscript of his now before me, was 1 Tim. 
iv. 1 — 3. " The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times 
some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, 
and doctrines of devils ; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their 
conscience seared with a hot iron 5 forbidding to marry, and com- 
manding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be 
received with thanksgiving of them who believe and know the 
truth." 

In discoursing from these words, if I may judge by the skele- 
ton of the sermon upon them, he showed, 1. What the apostolic 
doctrine was, and in what respect the Papists had departed 
from it, and given heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of 
devils. 1. That, according to the apostles and prophets, the 
Holy Scriptures are a sufficient rule of faith and practice, Isa. 
viii. 20. Gal i. 8. 2 Tim. iii. 15—17. Jude 3. But that 



136 



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the Church of Rome teaches, they are not a sufficient rule 
"proposing some doctrines as matters of faith, and requir- 
ing some things as necessary duty, which learned men among 
themselves, confess not to be contained in Scripture ; and 
maintaining that tradition, as well as Scripture, is a necessary 
rule of faith, requiring it to be received and reverenced with 
the like pious regard and veneration as the Holy Scriptures, and 
declaring those to be accursed who knowingly contemn it." 
2. That, according to the apostolic faith, the one living and true 
God, is the sole object of religious worship, Matt. iv. 10. 
Whereas the Papists enjoin the worship of the host, or conse- 
crated wafer, and of angels, saints, images and relics. 3. That 
according to the apostles and other inspired writers, Christ is the 
only mediator between God and man ; the only advocate, inter- 
cessor, and Saviour ; 1 Tim. ii. 5. 1 John ii. 1 . But that the 
Papists believe there are many mediators, intercessors, and ad- 
vocates with God, to whom they are wont to have recourse, as 
the Virgin Mary, St. Peter, and departed saints in general. 4. 
That the apostles and evangelists teach us that there is no merit. 
strictly speaking, in us or in our works or sufferings ; that, at the 
best, we are " unprofitable servants,' 1 and our righteousness, 
considered in itself, as " filthy rags that all merit is in him, 
his life and death, his atonement and intercession : that there is 
no " propitiatory sacrifice," but that of his cross, Hebr. i. 3. and 
9, 11, 12, 26. and no "purgatory;" but his blood and Spirit. 
1 John i. 7. and Rev. i. 5. Zech. xiii. 1. But that the Church of 
Rome, by her doctrine of indulgences, of penances, and of works 
of supererogation, as well as by that of the sacrifice of the mass, 
and of purgatory, has evidently departed from that faith ; affirm- 
ing that " the works of justified persons do truly deserve eternal 
life," and pronouncing " him accursed, who shall affirm thai 
such works do not truly deserve an increase of grace here, and 
eternal life hereafter." 5. That, according to the doctrine oi 
Christ and his apostles, the grace of the Holy Spirit is the one 
source of all the holiness, inward and outward, and of all the 
good which is in or is done by man: and that this "Spirii 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



137 



beareth witness with the spirits of the faithful, that they are the 
children of God." But the Papists hold that the Virgin Mary is 
also a source of grace to the faithful, being accustomed to ad- 
dress her in these words, " Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord 
be with thee, thy grace with me." And they maintain also, 
that there is no certain knowledge of salvation to be attained in 
this life. 6. As to the commands of God, they mangle the first ; 
they curtail, obliterate, or openly break the second ; and most 
evidently contradict and violate the tenth ; the Council of Trent 
having pronounced them " accursed who say that concupiscence 
is sin." 7. Prayer is perverted by them, being ridiculously ad- 
dressed to saints and angels, and that by means of beads and 
strings ; is offered often for the dead, and, when in public gene- 
rally in a tongue not understood by the common people. 8. 
The two sacraments are corrupted and abused: that of the 
Lord's Supper by the doctrine of transubstantiation, which 
teaches that the bread and wine are changed, by the act of con- 
secration, into the very body and blood of Christ ; that it is " a 
sacrifice for the dead and the living," and ought to be adored : 
and also in denying the cup to the laity. — Baptism is partly 
abused in the Baptism of Bells, and partly rendered ridiculous, 
by joining it with sundry foolish and unscriptural ceremonies. 
9. Marriage is constituted a sacrament, without any authority 
from Scripture, and yet is forbidden to the clergy. 

Another part of Mr. Fletcher's discourse went to show that 
the Spirit had expressly foretold that such a departure as this 
from the faith should take place in the latter days, or days inter- 
vening between Christ's first and second coming. With this 
view, he appealed to the prophecy of Daniel, chap. vii. 25. and 
xi. 36. and to St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, 
chap. ii. 4. proving, by convincing arguments, that these passa- 
ges of the Inspired Writings were meant to be understood of the 
general apostacy of the Church of Christ in Gospel days. He 
showed also, that this departure from the truth of doctrine and 
practice had taken place through giving way to seducing spirits 
in popf>s and priests, josuits and friars. 

IS 



138 



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5. Concerning the effects of this sermon, and the circum- 
stances consequent upon it, Mr. Fletcher writes to his friend 
as follows : 

" The day after I wrote to you, I preached the sermon against 
Popery, which I had promised to my people : and Mr. S — t — r 
called out several times in the churchyard, as the people went 
out of church, that " there was not one word of truth in the 
whole of my discourse, and that he would prove it ; w and told 
me, that " he would produce a gentleman who should answer 
my sermon, and the pamphlet I had distributed." I was there- 
fore obliged to declare in the church, that I should not quit 
England, and was only going into Wales, from whence I would 
return soon to reply to the answer of Mr. S — t — r and the 
priest, if they should offer any. I am thus obliged to return to 
Madeley, by my word so publicly pledged, as well as to raise a 
little money for my journey." 

By this bold and prudent stand, thus made by this man oi 
God, the designs of the Papists were in a great measure frus- 
trated, and they were prevented from making any progres? 
worth mentioning in that neighbourhood. It is true, there u 
even now a Mass-house and a priest at Madeley ; but I find 
upon inquiry there are not a dozen Popish families in the 
parish. 

6. This little storm seems to have been chiefly blown over 
before the middle of January, at which time, however, he was 
still undetermined respecting his intended visit to France and 
Switzerland, as appears by a letter of the 1 3th of that month to 
Mr. Ireland, written from Wales. 

" I know not what to think of our journey. My heart fre- 
quently recoils ; I have lost all hopes of being able to preach hi 
French, and I think if I could, they will not permit me. I be- 
come more stupid every day : my memory fails me in a surpri- 
sing manner. I am good for nothing, but to go and bury myself 
in my parish. — Judge, then, whether I am fit to go into the 
world. On the other hand, I fear that your journey is under- 
taken partly from complaisance to me, and in consequence of the 
engagement we made to go together. I acquit you of your pro- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



139 



mise, and if your business do not really demand your presence 
in France, I beg you will not think of going there on my 
account. The bare idea of giving you trouble would make the 
journey ten times more disagreeable to me, than the season 
of the year. 

" If your affairs do not really call you to France, I will wait 
until Providence and grace shall open a way for me to the 
mountains of Switzerland, if I am ever to see them again. 
Adieu. Give yourself wholly to God. A divided heart, like a 
divided kingdom, falls naturally, by its own gravity, either into 
darkness, or into sin. — My heart's desire is, that the love of 
Jesus may fill your soul, and that of your unworthy, and greatly 
obliged servant, 

J. F .» 



7. His friend, it appears, had solved his doubts, and answered 
his objections so much to his satisfaction in his reply, that they 
soon afterward undertook their journey, and travelled through 
a great part of France and Italy, as well as visited Switzerland. 
It is extremely to be regretted, that neither of them kept a 
journal during this tour, as the incidents which occurred, I know, 
were such as would have afforded much important, as well as 
pleasing information, if recorded in a narrative of this kind. In 
order, in some degree, to supply this want, I insert here the 
following short account of some of these occurrences, which 
Mr. Ireland has kindly favoured me with, in answer to my 
inquiries. 

8. His words are — " It would give me great pleasure to add 
any thing to what I have already communicated respecting mv 
much esteemed, but deceased friend. But alas ! I may as well at- 
tempt to gather up water spilt on the ground. I was with him day 
and night, in our first journey, nearly five months, travelling all 
over Italy and France. At that time a Popish priest resided in 
his parish, who attempted to mislead the poor people. Mr. Flet- 
cher, therefore, throughout this journey, attended the sermons of 
the Roman Catholic clergy, visited their convents and monas^ 



140 



THE LIFE 0} 



teries, and conversed with all the most serious among them, 
whom he met with, in order that he might thoroughly know 
their sentiments concerning spiritual religion. And he was so 
very particular in making his observations respecting the gross 
and absurd practices of the priests and other clergy, especially 
while we were in Italy, that we were frequently in no small 
danger of our lives. He wished to attend the Pope's Chapel 
at Rome, but I would not consent to accompany him, till 1 had 
obtained a promise from him, that he would forbear to speak by 
way of censure or reproof of what he saw or heard. He came 
into company with a great many men of science and learning, 
with whom he conversed freely on Gospel truths ; which most 
of them opposed with violence. A few heard and were edified. 
I have often said that I would give a considerable sum of money, 
could 1 recollect, or procure a copy of his arguments, and their 
replies, respecting the capital truths of the Gospel. But. alas ! 
my memory fails me ; and although I was exceedingly struck 
with them at the time I heard them, yet as they occurred fre- 
quently, I had not leisure on the journey to take minutes of 
them. His whole life, as you well know, was a sermon : all his 
conversations were sermons. Even his disputations with infidels 
were full of instruction. We met with a gentleman of fortune 
once on a journey, an excellent classical scholar, with whom we 
continued near a fortnight in a hotel. He said he had travelled 
all over Europe, and had passed through all the Societies in 
England, to find a person whose life corresponded with the Gos- 
pels and with Paul's Epistles. And he asked me, (for it was 
with me he first began to converse) if I knew of any clergyman, 
or Dissenting minister in England, possessing a stipend of one 
hundred pounds a year for the cure of souls, who would not 
leave them all, if I offered him double that sum. I replied in 
the affirmative, and soon pointed out my friend Mr. Fletcher, 
when absent. Disputations now commenced, which continued, 
at intervals, for many days. And they had this effect upon the 
gentleman, that he ever after revered and respected our friend ; 
and when we met again, many years after, at Marseilles, showed 
him every civility.*' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



141 



y. The instance referred to by Mr. Ireland in the preceding 
account is related more at large by Mr. Gilpin, in the following 
words : — " Some years ago, he met with a traveller on the con- 
tinent, who had adopted the sentiments of Voltaire, with respect 
to the religion of Jesus ; a man of much information and refine- 
ment, and a strenuous opposer of the Christian faith. This 
gentleman no sooner understood that he was sitting in company 
with a zealous defender of scriptural truth, but, confiding in his 
own superiority, he carelessly threw out the gauntlet, by ridi- 
culing the sentiments which Mr. Fletcher maintained. Our 
pious traveller immediately accepted the challenge with a 
modest assurance, and the conversation between these two able 
disputants soon became serious. Every argument, on either 
side, was proposed with the greatest caution, and every propo- 
sition examined with the nicest accuracy. — After the contest had 
continued for several hours together, the gentleman grew impa- 
tient at his want of success ; while his calmer opponent confuted 
and exposed the tenets he had vainly endeavoured to maintain. 

" This debate was continued by adjournment, for the space 
of a week; and, during this season, whatever had been said 
upon the subject by the most celebrated writers, was regularly 
brought forward, and thoroughly canvassed. Mr. Fletcher re- 
peatedly overcame his antagonist, whose arguments became 
more languid and ineffectual toward the close of the debate, and 
who regularly lost his temper and his cause together. In the 
course of this controversy, Mr. Fletcher took a view of the 
Christian's enviable life, his consolation in trouble, and his tran- 
quillity in danger ; together with his absolute superiority to all the 
evils of life and the horrors of death ; interspersing his remarks 
with many affectionate admonitions, and powerful persuasives to 
a rational dependence upon the truths of the Gospel. 

" Such was the conclusion of this memorable debate, in the 
course of which, the unsuccessful disputant conceived so exalted 
an idea of his opponent's character, that he never afterward 
mentioned his name but with peculiar veneration and regard. 
And, as a proof that this regard was unfeigned, meeting with 
Mr. Fletcher about eight years afterward in Provence, where 



142 



THE LIFE 



he lived in affluence and ease, he showed him every possible 
civility, entertaining him at his own house in the most hospitable 
manner, and listening to his conversation on spiritual subjects 
with all imaginable attention and respect. 

" Such was the manner in which Mr. Fletcher acquitted him- 
self in the defence of oppressed truth ; and whether his efforts 
were successful or not, he left behind him in every place, suffi- 
cient proofs of the acuteness, resolution, and constancy, with 
which he exerted himself in her cause." 

10. Another anecdote, similar to the preceding, is related 
by the same pious author in the following words : " Meet- 
ing some years ago with a young Genoese, who was returning 
from Antibes to Genoa, Mr. Fletcher, who was taking the 
same route, very courteously accepted the offer of his com- 
pany. After a short conversation had taken place between them, 
our pious traveller was deeply affected to discover that his com- 
panion had imbibed the sceptical notions of the day. Upon 
this discovery, he beheld the youth with a mixture of compas- 
sion and hope, secretly determining to improve the providence 
which had cast this young stranger in his way, by attempting to 
lead him from the grossness of materialism to the spirituality of 
the Gospel. As they were detained at Monacho by contrary 
winds, he thankfully embraced this favourable opportunity of 
conversing with his fellow-traveller in the freest and most affec- 
tionate manner. At first the young man maintained his own sen- 
timents with a great degree of warmth, and with a strong persua- 
sion that every attempt to refute them would be ineffectual ; 
but in the course of a few hours, he was unexpectedly staggered 
by the forcible arguments of his wiser opponent. At the end of 
two day's debate, he frankly acknowledged himself vanquished, 
and expressed a desire that the controversy might be turned in- 
to a liberal inquiry respecting the nature of revealed religion. 
Here Mr. Fletcher entered upon a part of his province, to which 
he was always especially disposed, explaining the Scriptures in a 
manner peculiar to himself, equally intelligible and sublime, 
leading on his astonished companion from mystery to mystery, and 
opening before him an unbounded prospect of grace and glory. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



143 



The young man was struck with the masterly skill, and affected 
with the more than parental concern of his instructer. He look- 
ed up to him with reverence, and listened to him with admira- 
tion : and still, the longer he attended to his discourse, the more 
he was athirst for information, renewing the sacred subject with 
little intermission from morning till night. 

" At length the young gentleman was constrained to acknow- 
ledge the natural depravity and darkness of his mind, bewailing 
his former inattention to the most momentous concerns, and 
lamenting with many tears, that he had wandered so long with- 
out the help of an experienced guide to extricate him from the 
mazes of delusion and error. From this time he desired to be 
present at morning and evening prayer, on which occasions Mr. 
Fletcher was careful to expound some portion of Scripture pecu- 
liarly adapted to his circumstances : and, during the continuance 
of these devotional exercises, such was the solemn attention and 
deportment of this altered youth, that a stranger would have 
supposed him a student of deep experience in the school of 
Christ. — These religious impressions were not only continued, 
but deepened, from day to day, till their arrival at Genoa : when 
Mr. Fletcher had the satisfaction of observing, in the character 
of his amiable companion, every apparent token of a real and 
permanent change. 

" During Mr. Fletcher's continuance at this place, he had 
frequent opportunities of conversing with his new acquaintance, 
from whom he received many testimonies of affectionate regard, 
and whom he endeavoured to establish in the faith of the Gos- 
pel. He gave him such directions and warnings as were suited 
to his state. He exhorted him to search the Scriptures, and to 
continue instant in prayer. He set before him the trials and 
difficulties which would probably attend his spiritual progress, 
together with the advantages and consolations which must 
necessarily accompany a religious life. He guarded him against 
the devices of an ensnaring world, and pointed out the vanity of 
its richest gifts ; how transient its smiles, how trifling its honours, 
how uncertain its riches, how inconstant its friendship, how fee- 
ble its supports :-— entreating him to mark it down in his memory, 



144 



1HL LIFE OF 



that the friend of the world is the enemy of God, And now. 
being called away from Genoa, after taking a most affection^ 
ate leave of his young disciple, and commending him to God 
in solemn prayer, he zvent on his way rejoicing. 

Ms We learn further from Mr, Ireland, that while they 
were at Marseilles, he procured for Mr. Fletcher the use of 
a Protestant Church in that neighbourhood. After this grant 
had been obtained, Mr. Fletcher made the circumstance of 
his preaching there the subject of most fervent prayer during 
the whole of the preceding week. And inasmuch as he found 
no freedom in his mind, nor confidence in praying concerning 
it, nor expectation of doing good by preaching, he entreated 
Mr. Ireland every day, even until the Sunday morning when 
he was to preach, to go and inform the minister he must de- 
cline preaching. Mr. Ireland, however, refused j and Mr. 
Fletcher was compelled, by a regard for consistency and pro- 
priety of conduct, to go up into the pulpit ; although under 
great fear and depression of mind. God was pleased, how- 
ever, when he began to pray, to give him great freedom of 
speech and enlargement of heart, and he afterward preached 
in a manner that astonished all that heard him. The whole con- 
gregation, among whom were many ministers, were in tears, 
and exceedingly affected, most part of the time that he was en- 
gaged in the service. 

12. The reader would observe that in one of the letters 
quoted above, Mr. Fletcher mentions his having a desire to 
visit some Hugonots (Protestants) in the south of France, 
and it w r as during this tour that his desire was gratified, and 
the following circumstance took place, related by Mr. Gilpin 
in his Notes. Indeed while on his last journey to the conti- 
nent, he was not in a state of health to undertake any la- 
bour of the kind. 

" Passing some years ago,*' says Mr. Gilpin, " through the 
south of France, he expressed a longing desire to visit the 
Protestants in the Sevennes Mountains, whose fathers had 
suffered so greatly in the cause of godliness. To converse 
with the children of those who had laid down their lives in 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



145 



defence of the truth, was a privilege not to be despised by a 
man, who never lost an opportunity of conversing with a righte- 
ous person, without lamenting it as a real misfortune. Though 
the journey was long and difficult, yet no argument could pre- 
vail with him to give up his resolution of attempting it on foot. 
4 Shall I,' said he to his friend, ' make a visit on horseback, and at 
ease, to those poor cottagers, whose fathers were hunted along 
yonder rocks, like partridges upon the mountains 1 No ; in 
order to secure a more friendly reception among them, I will 
visit them under the plainest appearance, and with my staff in 
my hand.' 

" Accordingly he set out alone on this Christian expedition ; 
and, after travelling till it was nearly dark, he came to a small 
house, where he requested the favour of sitting up in a chair till 
the morning. It was not without some hesitation that the mas- 
ter of the cottage consented to receive him ; after which he im- 
mediately entered into discourse with his host and his wife, who 
were so much charmed with the conversation and manners of 
their guest, that they considered the richest provisions their 
house could afford, as too mean to be set before him. After a 
hasty repast the conversation was continued on the part of Mr. 
Fletcher, and attended to by the children, as well as by their 
parents, with a degree of eagerness, which discovered their de- 
sire of religious instruction. Before they retired to rest, prayer 
was proposed : and while this holy man was engaged in pouring 
out his fervent supplication before God, the family around him 
were uncommonly affected, melted into tears, and filled with 
holy admiration. Early on the morrow, while he repeated his 
exhortations and renewed his prayers, he was listened to with the 
same veneration and earnestness ; when, taking an affectionate 
leave of the family, he left the whole household in a state of 
astonishment and concern. This little relation was taken from 
the poor man himself, who immediately gave it out among his 
neighbours, that he had nearly refused to admit a stranger into 
his house, who proved to be rather an angel than a man. This 
family was of tho. R omish Church. 

19 



146 



HIE LIFL OF 



" Continuing Ins journey, Mr. Fletcher reached a little town, 
where he was entertained by a pious minister, to whom he had 
been recommended. Here he was received by the serious Pro- 
testants with open arms, among whom he exercised his ministry 
with much freedom and success. He conversed with their 
elders, he admonished their youth, he visited their sick, diligent- 
ly exhorting and instructing them from house to house, wl)il<- 
many among them were comforted, and many built up in then 
most holy faith. 

" In the course of his progress through these mountains, he 
put up at a little house, where his landlord was one of those per- 
sons who seldom utter a word unaccompanied by an oath. Our 
benevolent traveller addressed this unthinking creature in his 
usual pointed and pathetic manner ; and not without effect. His 
heart was deeply penetrated with the deserved rebuke, he con- 
fessed his error, and expressed a serious concern for the irregu- 
larity of his past conduct. Mr. Fletcher had many opportuni- 
ties in this family for the pious exercises of admonition and 
prayer ; and, from the time of his sojourning among them, an 
uncommon reformation was apparent in the conversation and 
manners of his host. It has since appeared, that the solemn 
exhortations he received during this season, were attended with 
so extraordinary an effect upon this poor man, that if, on am' 
future occasion, he discovered an unholy warmth in his temper, 
nothing more was necessary to produce an immediate calm in 
his mind, than the bare recollection of that venerable stranger, 
who had once lodged beneath his roof. 

" This tedious journey (of which a much more circumstantial 
account might be given,) while it evinced the love of this inde- 
fatigable pastor to those whom he knew only by report, was 
productive of the happiest consequences to those who attended 
his ministry upon this occasion, and especially to those who en 
tertained him in their families." 

13. It was during this journey also, that while they were 
travelling through a part of Italy, " as they approached the Ap- 
pian-Way. he directed the driver to stop before he entered upon 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



147 



it. He then ordered the chaise door to be opened, assuring his 
fellow-traveller, that his heart would not suffer him to ride over 
that ground, upon which the apostle Paul had formerly walked 
chained to a soldier, on account of preaching the everlasting 
Gospel. As soon as he had set his foot upon this old Roman 
road, he took off his hat ; and walking on, with his eyes lifted 
up to heaven, returned thanks to God in a most fervent manner, 
for that light, those truths, and that influence of the Holy Spirit, 
which were continued to the present day. He rejoiced that 
England was favoured with the Gospel in its purity ; and de- 
voutly implored, that Rome might again have the truths of that 
Gospel declared in those churches which were disgraced with a 
worship little superior to that of ancient Athens. He then took 
a view of the exemplary life, the extensive travels, and astonish- 
ing labours of the great apostle. He recounted his sufferings 
when a prisoner, and his trials when at liberty ; his rigid self- 
denial, and his voluntary poverty for the furtherance of the 
Gospel. He spoke of his painful ministry, and his violent per- 
secutions, enlarging, with peculiar energy, upon his last journey 
from Jerusalem to Rome. He then ran over his experience ;— ■ 
his faith, his love, his abundant revelations, and his constant 
communion with the Lord Jesus Christ; demonstrating that, 
without such communion, he could never have supported the 
sharp conflicts and repeated sufferings to which he was dairy 
exposed. Here he adverted to his own situation, with a degree 
of gratitude that surpasses all description. What a miracle of 
mercy, said he, that a Christian, hated and despised as he is by all 
men, is yet suffered to live : and that we, who desire to be such, 
can travel at this day unmolested among those who abhor the 
truth as it is in Jesus. Their ancestors were stained with the 
blood of the innocent ; and were the Gospel to be proposed in 
its purity, to the present generation, they would rush upon the 
preacher of it, as so many beasts of prey, if He, who restrained 
the lions from devouring Daniel, were not present to control 
their destructive zeal. These remarks were continued for a 
long time together, sweetly intermixed with occasional prayer 
and praise. He breathed nothing but devotion ; and had he not 



148 



THE LIFE Oi 



been prevented by the presence of the driver, such were ins 
feelings on treading this celebrated road, that he would certain- 
ly have acted like St. Paul when he retired to the river side, 
•where prayer was wont to be made." 

14. Soon after his arrival in Switzerland, "he was waited 
upon by the clergy at Nyon, who severally pressed him to ho- 
nour their pulpits during his stay at that place. On the morrow 
of his arrival, being the Sabbath-day, he addressed his country- 
men in an admirable discourse, the result of much prayer and 
meditation. The subject matter of this sermon, and the manner 
in which it was delivered, were equally striking. The clear- 
ness and pathos with which he expressed himself on this occa- 
sion, attracted the attention of all, and filled many with a se- 
rious concern for the faith once delivered to the saints. Deists 
themselves listened with admiration ; while the multitude ap- 
peared as though they saw and heard one more than man. 
To adopt the French idea, he carried off the whole audience. 
During his continuance at Nyon he preached in different 
churches ; and wherever he was announced, multitudes flocked 
from all quarters to attend him. The reputation of his great 
abilities drew together persons of every description ; and it was 
truly refreshing, says an intimate friend of Mr. Fletcher, who 
was present upon these occasions, to behold the powerful effects 
of the Gospel among those, who, before that time, had seldom 
or never heard it proclaimed in its purity. Many despisers of 
revelation were overawed and confounded ; many formal pro- 
fessors were touched with the power of true religion ; and 
many careless lovers of pleasure were impressed with a solemn 
sense of eternal things. 

" One young man in particular, was so deeply affected by 
the discourses of this powerful preacher, that he immediately 
resolved to consecrate himself to the service of God in the work 
of the holy ministry. Accordingly he betook himself from that 
time to studies of a sacred nature, and is at this day minister of 
the Protestant church at Lyons. Among others, a good old 
minister, who was more than seventy years of age, heard him 
gladly 5 and earnestly entreated him to lengthen out his visit at 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



149 



Nyon, though it should be but for a single week beyond the time 
proposed for his departure. He urged his request with much 
importunity ; and when he found that his desire could not con- 
veniently be complied with, the old man wept, and turning to 
Mr. Fletcher's fellow-traveller, affectingly exclaimed, ' O sir, 
how unfortunate for this country ; during my day it has pro- 
duced but one angel of a man, and it is our lot to be deprived of 
him !' The benefit of his public labours in this place was sig- 
nificantly attested, by the numerous applications he received in 
private, for religious instruction. And the grateful sense his 
countrymen entertained of those labours was fully expressed, in 
their affectionate concern at his departure from among them. 
W eeping multitudes crowded round his carriage, anxious to re- 
ceive a last word or look : and not a few followed his chariot 
above two miles from the town, before they had resolution to 
tear themselves entirely away from the company of this venera- 
ble man. 

" For Nyon to be deprived of the ministry of this illustrious 
divine was truly unfortunate ; but it was equaHy happy for that 
favoured village, which was appointed to be the scene of his ex- 
emplary labours. — There his strength and his arms were chiefly 
exercsied, and there his most important victories over sin were 
obtained. There his name will long continue to be had in 
honour; and from thence many a goodly jewel will be col- 
lected, to form for him a crown of rejoicing in the day of the 
Lord." 

15. About the middle of summer, as far as I recollect, in that 
year, he and his friend returned to England. Soon after their 
return, I had the happiness of being frequently in company with 
Mr. Ireland, first at Trevecka, in Wales, and afterward at his 
own house at Bristol, and of hearing many pleasing and edifying 
anecdotes concerning Mr. Fletcher, and the circumstances of 
their journey. I lament that length of time, and the multitude 
of affairs Providence has called me to be engaged in, have 
erased these so far from my memory, that I am not able to give 
a clear or consistent account of them. One thing, however, I 
well remember, and shall never forget, and that is the very high 



150 



THE LITE OF 



esteem and veneration in which Mr. Fletcher was held by hi? 
friend and fellow-traveller, who, during the five months spent 
together on their tour, had seen such proofs, from day to day, of 
his exalted piety, fortitude, and wisdom, that he was perfectly 
enraptured with him. If Mr. Fletcher had been an angel in 
human flesh, his friend could not well have held him in higher 
estimation, nor have been more lavish and incessant in his praise. 
He was careful, however, to ascribe the glory of all the excel- 
lencies that were in him to the grace of God. 

16. My personal acquaintance with Mr. Fletcher was then 
but slight. I had, I think, only had two or three interviews 
with him, which, as far as I can recollect, were in the year 
1763, when I was classical master at Kingswood School. As he 
occasionally made an excursion from Madeley to Bristol and 
Bath, in one of those excursions we invited him to preach at 
Kingswood. He was peculiarly assisted while he was applying 
those encouraging words, Him that cometh unto me, I will in no 
zuise cast out. The people were exceedingly affected ; indeed 
quite melted down. The tears streamed so fast from the eyes 
of the poor colliers, that their black faces were washed by them, 
and almost universally streaked with white. And as to himself, 
his zealous soul, had been carried out so far beyond his strength, 
that when he concluded, he put off a shirt which was as wet as 
if it had been dipt in water. But this was nothing strange : 
wherever he preached it was generally the case. From this 
time I conceived a particular esteem for him, chiefly on account 
of his piety ; and wished much for a further acquaintance with 
him ; a blessing which I soon after obtained. 

17. For about this time the countess of Huntingdon erect- 
ed a Seminary at Trevecka, in Wales, in order to educate 
pious young men, of whatever denomination, for the ministry. 
She proposed to admit only such as were truly converted to 
God, and resolved to dedicate themselves to his service. They 
were at liberty to stay there three years, during which time they 
v/eie to have their education gratis, with every necessary of 
life, and a suit of clothes once a year; afterward those who de- 
sired it might enter into the ministry, either in the established 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



151 



Church of England, or among Protestants of any other denomi- 
nation. From the high opinion which the countess had of Mr. 
Fletcher's piety, learning, and abilities for such an office, she in- 
vited him to undertake the superintendence of that seminary. 
Not that he could promise to be generally resident there ; much 
less constantly. His duty to his own flock at Madeley would by 
no means admit of this. But he was to attend as often as he 
conveniently could ; to give advice with regard to the appoint- 
ment of masters, and the admission or exclusion of students : to 
oversee their studies and conduct ; to assist their piety, and 
judge of their qualifications for the work of the ministry. 

1 8. As Mr. Fletcher greatly approved of the design, especially 
considering, first, That none were to be admitted but such as 
feared and loved God; and secondly, That when they were 
prepared for it, they were to be at liberty to enter into the 
ministry wherever Providence should open a door ; he readily 
complied with the invitation, and undertook the charge. This 
he did without fee or reward, from the sole motive of being use- 
ful in the most important work of training up persons for the 
glorious office of preaching the Gospel. And some months 
after, with the same view, through his means, and in con- 
sequence of Mr. Wesley's recommendation to her ladyship, 
I was made Head Master of the Academy, or as it was com- 
monly called, the College, though I could very ill be spared 
from Kingswood, where 1 had acted in that capacity about four 
years. 

1 9. Being yet greatly wanted at Kingswood, and having likewise 
a term to keep at Oxford, I could only pay them a short visit, 
for the present, which was in January, 1 770. But in the spring 
following I went to reside there ; and for some time was well 
satisfied with my situation. The young men were serious, and 
made a considerable progress in learning ; and many of them 
seemed to have talents for the ministry. Mr. Fletcher visited 
them frequently, and was received as an angel of God. It is 
not possible for me to describe the veneration in which we all 
held him. Like Elijah in the schools of the prophets, he was 
revered ; he was loved ; he was almost adored : and that, not 



* 



152 



THE LIFE OF 



only by every student, but by every member of the family. 
And indeed he was worthy. The reader will pardon me, if he 
think I exceed. My heart kindles while I write. Here it was 
that I saw, shall I say, an angel in human flesh ? I should not 
far exceed the truth if I said so. But here I saw a descen- 
dant of fallen Adam, so fully raised above the ruins of the fall, 
that though by the body he was tied down to earth, yet was his 
whole conversation in heaven : yet was his life, from day to day, 
hid with Christ in God. Prayer, praise, love, and zeal, all 
ardent, elevated above what one would think attainable in this 
state of frailty, were the element in which he continually lived. 
And as to others, his one employment was to call, entreat, and 
urge them, to ascend with him to the glorious Source of being 
and blessedness. He had leisure, comparatively, for nothing 
else. Languages, arts, sciences, grammar, rhetoric, logic, even 
divinity itself, as it is called, were all laid aside, when he ap- 
peared in the school-room among the students. His full heart 
would not suffer him to be silent. He must speak, and they 
were readier to hearken to this servant and minister of Jesus 
Christ, than to attend to Sallust, Virgil, Cicero, or any 
Latin or Greek historian, poet, or philosopher they had been 
engaged in reading. And they seldom hearkened long, before 
they were all in tears, and every heart catched lire from the 
flame that burned in his soul. 

20. These seasons generally terminated in this. Being con- 
vinced that to be filled with the Holy Ghost was a better qualifi- 
cation for the ministry of the Gospel than any classical learning, 
(although that too be useful in its place,) after speaking awhile 
in the school-room, he used frequently to say, " As many of 
you as are athirst for this fulness of the Spirit, follow me into my 
room." On this, many of us have instantly followed him, and 
there continued for two or three hours, wrestling like Jacob for 
the blessing, praying one after another, till we could bear to 
kneel no longer. This was not done once or twice, but many 
times. And 1 have sometimes seen him, on these occasions, 
once in particular, so filled with the love of God, that he could 
contain no more, but cried out, " O my God, withhold thy 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



153 



hand, or the vessel will burst." But he afterward told me he 
was afraid he had grieved the Spirit of God ; and that he ought 
rather to have prayed, that the Lord would have enlarged the 
vessel, or have suffered it to break, that the soul might have had 
no further bar or interruption to its enjoyment of the Supreme 
Good. In this he was certainly right. For, as Mr. Wesley 
has observed, the proper prayer on such an occasion would have 
been, 

li Give me the enlarg'd desire, 

And open, Lord, my soul, 
Thy own fulness to require, 

And comprehend the whole S 
Stretch my faith's capacity 

Wider and yet wider still : 
Then with all that is in Thee 

My ravish'd spirit fill." 

21. Such was the ordinary employment of this man of God, 
while he remained at Trevecka. He preached the word of life 
to the students and family, and as many of the neighbours as 
desired to be present. He was instant in season and out of sea- 
son; he reproved, rebuked, exhorted with all long- suffering. He 
was always employed, either in illustrating some important 
truth, or exhorting to some neglected duty, or administering 
some needful comfort, or relating some useful anecdote, or mak- 
ing some profitable remark or observation upon some occur- 
rence. And his devout soul, always burning with love and zeal, 
led him to intermingle prayer with all he uttered. Meanwhile 
his manner was so solemn, and at the same time so mild and in- 
sinuating, that it was hardly possible for any one who had the 
happiness of being in his company, not to be struck with awe 
and charmed with love, as if in the presence of an angel or de- 
parted spirit. Indeed I frequently thought, while attending 
to his heavenly discourse and divine spirit, that he was so 
different from, and superior to, the generality of mankind, 
as to look more like Moses, or Elijah, or some prophet or 
apostle rojno again from the dead, than a mortal man 

20 



154 



THE LIFE OF 



dwelling in a house of clay. It is true, his weak and long- 
afflicted body proclaimed him to be human. But the graces 
which so eminently filled and adorned his soul, manifested him 
to be divine. And long before his happy spirit returned to God 
who gave it, that which was human seemed in a great measure 
to be swallozoed up of life, 

22. And as Mr. Fletcher was thus zealous and unwearied in 
his exhortations to, and prayers for, the students and other mem- 
bers of the family, while present with them, so he was far from 
being inattentive to their spiritual welfare when absent. His 
concern for their prosperity in the divine life constrained him. 
during his absence from them, frequently to address to them 
pastoral letters full of instruction and exhortation. — One of 
these, the only one I have in my possession, I shall here insert. 
It was written from Madeley, July 23, 1 770, immediately after 
his return from abroad. 

To the Masters and Students of Lady Huntingdon's College. 

" Grace, mercy, and peace attend you, my dear brethren, 
from God our Father, and from our Lord and brother, Jesus 
Christ. Brother, do I say ? but should I not rather have written 
all ? Is not he all and in all ? All to believers, for he is their 
God as the **yos (the Word,) and their Friend, Brother, Father, 
Spouse, &c. &c. &c. as he is Aoyo? yevo^evos <ru%Z {the Word made 
flesh.) From him, through him, and in him, I salute you in the 
Spirit. I believe he is here with me and in me; I believe he is 
yonder with you and in you ; for i in him we live, move, and 
have,' not only our animal, but rational, and spiritual ' being. 1 I 
believe it, I say, therefore I write. May the powerful grain of 
faith remove the mountain of remaining unbelief, that you and I 
may see things as God sees them ! that we may no more judge by 
appearances, but judge righteous judgment ; that we may no 
more walk by carnal sight, but by faith, the sight of God's chil- 
dren below ! When this is the case, we shall discover that the 
Creator is all indeed, and that creatures (which we are wont to 
put in his place since the fall) are mere nothings, passing clouds. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



155 



that our Sun of Righteousness hath thought fit to clothe himself 
with, and paint some of his glory upon. In an instant he could 
scatter them into their original nothing, or resorb them for ever, 
and stand, without competitor, rnrr the Being, But suppose 
that all creatures should stand for ever little signatures of God, 
what are they even in their most glorious estate, but as tapers 
kindled by his light, as well as formed by his power ? Now con- 
ceive a Sun, a spiritual Sun, whose centre is every where, whose 
circumference can be found nowhere ; a Sun whose lustre as 
much surpasses the brightness of the luminary that rules the 
day, as the Creator surpasses the creature ; and say, What are 
the twinkling tapers of good men on earth, what is the smoking 
flax of wicked creatures— what the glittering stars of saints in 
heaven ? Why, they are all lost in his transcendent glory, and 
if any one of these would set himself up as an object of esteem, 
regard, or admiration, he must indeed be mad with self and 
pride ; he must be (as dear Mr. Harris hath often told us) a fool- 
ish apostate, a devil. Understand this, believe this, and you 
will sink to unknown depths of self-horror, for having aspired at 
being somebody, self-humiliation for seeing yourself nobody, or 
what is worse, an evil body. But I would not have you dwell 
even upon this evil, so as to lose sight of your Sun, unless it be 
to see him covered, on this account, with your flesh and blood, 
and wrapt in the cloud of our nature. Then you will cry out 
with St. Paul, O the depth ! Then, finding the manhood is again 
resorbed into the Godhead, you will gladly renounce all selfish, 
separate existence in Adam and from Adam: you will take 
Christ to be your life ; you will become his members by eating 
his flesh and drinking his blood ; you will consider his flesh as 
your flesh, his bone as your bone, his Spirit as your spirit, his 
righteousness as your righteousness, his cross as your cross, and 
his crown (whether of thorns or glory) as your crown: you 
will reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive un- 
to God, through this dear Redeemer ; you will renounce pro- 
priety, you will heartily and gladly say, ' Not I, not I, but Christ 
liveth,' and only because he lives I do, and shall live also. When 
it is so with us, then are we creatures in our Creator, and 



I5£ 



THE LIFE Oi 



redeemed creatures in our Redeemer. Then we understand an*li 
feel what he says; Separate from me, x^ 1 * Ty *7<*-* 
Xa%ic> iu.a m trafygoq a 2wxr$e touiv #^jv.* 4 The moment I consider 
Christ and myself as two, I am gone,' says Luther, and I say so too ; 
I am gone into self, and into antichrist, for that which will be some- 
thing, will not let Christ be all, and that which will not let Christ 
be all, must certainly be antichrist. What a poor, jejune, dry thing, 
is doctrinal Christianity, compared with the clear and heart-felt 
assent that the believer gives to these fundamental truths! 
What life, what strength, what comfort flow out from them ! 

my friends, let us believe, and we shall see, taste, and han- 
dle the word of life. When I stand in unbelief, I am like a 
drop of muddy water drying up in the sun of temptation ; I can 
neither comfort, nor help, nor preserve myself; when I do be- 
lieve and close in with Christ, I am like that same drop losing 
itself in a boundless, bottomless sea of purity, light, life, power, 
and love ; there my good and my evil are equally nothing, 
equally swallowed up, and grace reigns through righteousness 
unto eternal life. There I wish you all to be ; there I beg you 
and I may meet with all God's children. I long to see you that 

1 may impart unto you (should God make use of such a worm) 
some spiritual gift, and that I may be comforted by the mutual 
faith both of you and me, and by your growth in grace, and in 
divine, as well as human wisdom, during my long absence. 

" I hope matters will be contrived so that I may be with you, 
to behold your order, before the anniversary ; meanwhile I re- 
main your affectionate fellow-labourer and servant in the Gospel 
of Christ, 

J. F.» 

23. But how came Mr. Fletcher to leave Trevecka ? Why 
did he give up an office for which he was so perfectly well 
qualified, which he executed so entirely to the satisfaction of all 
the parties with whom he was concerned, and in which it had 

• <• Without me, the Creator, ve arr nothing; without me, the Saviour 
ve can do nothing." 



THE EEV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



Vol 



pleased God to give so manifest a blessing to his labours ? Per- 
haps it would be better, in tenderness to some persons eminent 
for piety and usefulness, to let that matter remain still under the 
veil which forgiving love has cast over it. But if it be thought 
that justice to his character, and to the cause which, from that 
time, he so warmly espoused and so ably defended, requires some 
light to be cast upon it, it may be the most inoffensive way to do 
it in his own words. 

It will be proper to observe here, for the better understanding 
of the following letter, that sometime before Mr. Fletcher 
quitted Trevecka, I had been discharged from my office there ; 
" not, (as Mr. Wesley has justly observed, in the former edition 
of this Life,) for any defect of learning or piety, or any fault 
found with my behaviour ; for nothing of that kind was so much 
as pretended ; but wholly and solely, because I did not believe 
the doctrine of absolute Predestination." 

24. The following is an exact copy of all that is material in 
a letter Mr. Fletcher wrote to me, in consequence of my dis- 
mission from the office I had sustained there. 

"Dear Sir, January 7, 1771. 

" The same post brought me yours and two from my Lady, 
and one from Mr. Williams, (a clergyman, who, professing to be 
under serious impressions, had been permitted by her ladyship 
to stay a few weeks at the College ; but was neither master nor 
student, and termed by Mr. Fletcher ' a bird of passage.') 
Their letters contained no charges, but general ones, which with 
me go for nothing. If the procedure you mention be fact, and 
your letter be a fair account of the transactions and words re- 
lativcTto your discharge, a false step has been taken. I write 
by this post to her ladyship on the affair with all possible plain- 
ness. If the plan of the College be overthrown, I have nothing 
more to say to it. I will keep to my tent for one ; the confined 
tool of any one party I never was, and never will be. If the 
blow that should have been struck at the dead spirit, is struck 
(contrary to the granted liberty of sentiment) at dead Arminius, 



158 



THE LIFE OF 



or absent Mr. Wesley ; if a master is turned away without any 
fault, it is time for me to stand up with firmness, or to with- 
draw." 

At the same time the following paragraphs were transcribed 
and sent to me by Mr. Fletcher, from his letter to my Lady on 
this occasion. 

" Mr. Benson made a very just defence when he said, he did 
hold with me the possibility of salvation for all men 5 that mercy 
is offered to all, and yet may be received or rejected. If this be 
what your ladyship calls Mr. Wesley's opinion, free-will, and 
Arminianism, and if 4 every Arminian must quit the College,' 
I am actually discharged also. For in my present view of things, 
I must hold that sentiment, if I believe that the Bible is true, and 
that God is love. 

" For my part, I am no party-man. In the Lord I am 
your servant, and that of your every student. But I cannot 
give up the honour of being connected with my old friends, who, 
notwithstanding their failings, are entitled to my respect, grati- 
tude, and assistance, could I occasionally give them any. Mr. 
Wesley shall always be welcome to my pulpit, and I shall gladly 
bear my testimony in his, as well as in Mr. Whitefield's. But 
if your ladyship forbid your students to preach for the one, and 
offer them to preach for the other at every turn ; and if a mas- 
ter is discarded for believing that Christ died for all ; then pre- 
judice reigns ; charity is cruelly wounded ; and party spirit 
shouts, prevails, and triumphs." 

In the same letter in which he transcribed the above para- 
graphs, he, in a most Christian spirit, gave me the following cau- 
tion : " Take care, my dear Sir, not to make matters worse than 
they are : and cast the mantle of forgiving love over the circum- 
stances that might injure the cause of God, so far as it is put 
into the hands of that eminent lady, who hath so well deserved 
of the Church of Christ. Rather suffer in silence, than make a 
noise to cause the Philistines to triumph. Do not let go your 
expectation of a baptism from above," (meaning a larger mea- 
sure of the influences of the Spirit of God. for which I was then 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



159 



much athirst.) " May you be supported and directed in this, 
and every other trial, and may peace be extended to you as a 
river. Farewell. 

J. F." 

25. The above letter he directed to the New-Room, Horse- 
Fair, Bristol, supposing it would find me there ; but understand- 
ing by another letter from me, that I was still in Wales, two days 
after he wrote again, repeating the chief part of the above let- 
ter, and adding, " I am determined to stand or fell with the 
liberty of the College. As J entered it a free place, I must quit 
it the moment it is a harbour for party spirit. 

" As I am resolved to clear up this matter, or quit my province, 
I beg you will help me to as many facts and words, truly done, 
and really spoken, as you can ; whereby I may show," (to the 
parties concerned at Trevecka,) " that false reports, groundless 
suspicions, party spirit against Mr. W esley, arbitrary proceed- 
ings, and unscriptural impulses, hold the reins and manage af- 
fairs in the College ; as also that the balance of opinions is not 
maintained, and Mr. Wesley's opinions are dreaded, and struck 
at, more than deadness of heart, and a wrong conduct." Here 
again as a Christian, he cautions : " Do not make matters worse 
than they are ; I fear they are bad enough. So far as we can ? 
let us keep this matter to ourselves. When you speak of it to 
others, rather endeavour to palliate than aggravate what hath 
been wrong in your opposers : remember that great lady has 
been an instrument of great good, and that there are great in- 
consistencies attending the greatest and best of men. Possess 
your soul in patience ; see the salvation of God ; and believe, 
though against hope, that light will spring out of darkness. 1 
am, with concern for you and that poor College, 

Your's. in Jesus, 

J. F." 

26. Soon after this he visited the College himself, when hr 
had an opportunity of examining ^very thing on the spot, and 
of seeing with his own eyes, how matters were conducted. 



160 



THE LIFE OF 



The following is the account which he gave me, as the result of 
his observations, in a letter dated March 22, 1771. 

" My dear Friend, 

" On my arrival at the College, I found all very quiet. I fear 
through the enemy's keeping his goods in peace. While I 
preached the next day, I found myself as much shackled as ever 
1 was in my life. And after private prayer, I concluded I was 
not in my place. The same day I resigned my office to my 
Lady, and on Wednesday, to the students and the lord. Never- 
theless I went on as usual, only had no heart to give little 
charges to the students as before. I should possibly have got 
over it as a temptation, if several circumstances had not con- 
firmed me in my design. Two I shall mention, because they 
are worth a thousand. When Mr. Sh — y was at the College, 
what you had written upon the " baptism of the Holy Ghost,*- 
was taken to pieces. Mr. Sh — y maintained that the prophecy of 
Joel, Acts ii. had its complete fulfilment on the day of Pente- 
cost, and thus he turned the streams of living waters into imper- 
ceptible dews, nemine contradicente* except two, who made one 
or two feeble objections : so that the point was, in my judgment, 
turned out of the College after you, and abused under the name 
of < Perfection.' This showed I was not likely to receive or do 
any good there. 

" Some days after my arrival, however, I preached the good 

old doctrine before my Lady and Mr. H . The latter 

talked also of imperceptible influences, and the former thanked 
me, but, in my apprehension, spoiled all by going to the College 
the next day, to give a charge partly against Perfection, in my 
absence. 

" In the meantime, Mr. Shirley has sent my Lady a copy of 
the doctrinal part of the Minutes of the last conference, (viz. 
of the year 1770.) They were called horrible, abominable, and 
subversive articuli stantis vol cadentis ecclesiae.t My Lady told 

Xo one gainsaying, 
r " Of the Pillar on which the Church stand?, or with which it falls " 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



161 



me 1 she must barn against them : and that whoever did not 
fully disavow them should quit the College.' Accordingly an 
order came for the master, a very insufficient person, and the 
students, to write their sentiments upon them without reserve. 
I also did so ; explained them according to Mr. Wesley's senti- 
ments ; and approved the doctrine, blaming only the unguarded 
and not sufficiently explicit manner in which it was worded, 
I concluded by observing, that, as after such a step on my part, 
and such a declaration on her ladyship's, I could no longer, as 
an honest man, stay in the College, I took my leave of it ; wish- 
ing my Lady might find a minister to preside over it less insuffi- 
cient, and more willing to go certain lengths into what appeared 
to me party spirit, than I am. 

" To be short, I pleaded my cause with my Lady, who 
seemed at last sensible of the force of my reasons. I advised 
her, as her College was Calvinistic, to get a Calvinistic president 
for it, and recommended Mr. R. H — — . My Lady was so far 
prevailed upon by my stand for Mr. Wesley as to design to 
write him a civil letter, to demand an explication of the obnox- 
ious propositions of the Minutes, and seemed rather for peace 
than war, and friendship eminus, (at a distance) than battle 
cominus, (hand to hand.) Last Friday I left them all in peace, 
the servant, but no more the president, of the College. My 
Lady behaved with great candour and condescension towardg 
me in the affair. As for you, you are still out of her books, and 
are likely so to continue. Your last letters have only thrown 
oil upon the fire : all was seen in the same light in which 
Mr. Wesley's letter appeared. You were accused of having 
alienated my heart from the College ; but I have cleared you. 

" I rejoice that your desires after a larger measure of the 
Holy Spirit increase. Part rather with your heart's blood than 
with them. Let me meet you at the throne of grace, and send 
me word how you dispose of yourself. If you are at a loss 
for a prophet's room, remember I have one here. 

J. F." 

27. Such were the reasons why Mr. Fletcher resigned his 
charge at Trevecka. Soon after this, the controversy respect- 

21 



THE LIFE or 



ing the propositions of the before-mentioned Minutes begim. 
For although Lady H. had signified to Mr. Fletcher, that it was 
her design to write to Mr. Wesley, and demand an explication 
of these obnoxious propositions, it does not appear that this 
was ever done, either by her ladyship or any one of her friends. 
On the contrary, the well-known Circular Letter now went 
abroad, under the name of Mr. Shirley, inviting the clergy of 
all denominations to assemble in a body at Bristol, to oppose Mr, 
Wesley and the preachers, when they should meet in Conference, 
which they were expected to do in the beginning of the ensuing 
August, and to oblige them to revoke the dreadful heresies con- 
tained in those Minutes. As Mr. Fletcher thought the churches 
throughout Christendom were verging very fast towards Anti- 
nomianism, he judged the propositions contained in those Mi- 
nutes ought rather to be confirmed than revoked. And as he 
was now retired to his parish, he had more leisure for such a 
work than before. Therefore, after much prayer and considera- 
tion, he determined to write in defence of them. In how able 
a manner he did this, I need not tell any that have read those 
incomparable writings. I know not how to give the character 
of them better than in the words of Dr. Dixon, then principal 
of Edmund-Hall, Oxford, whose kindness to me I shall ever re- 
member, and to whom I sent Mr. Fletcher's Checks, with a re- 
commendatory letter. He answered me as follows : 

" Dear Sir, 

" When I first read yours, I must own I suspected your friend- 
ship for Mr. Fletcher had made you too lavish in your com- 
mendation of his writings : and that when I came to read them^ 
I should find some abatements necessary to be made. But now 
I have read them, I am far from thinking you have spoken ex- 
travagantly ; or indeed, that too much can be said in commenda- 
tion of them. I had not read his first letter, before I was so 
charmed with the spirit, as well as the abilities of the writer, 
that the gushing tear could not be hindered from giving full testi- 
mony of my heart-felt satisfaction. Perhaps some part of this 
pleasure might arise from finding my own sentiments so fully 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



163 



embraced by the author. But sure I am, the greatest share of it 
arose from finding those benevolent doctrines so firmly estab- 
lished ; and that with such judgment, clearness, and precision, as 
are seldom, very seldom, to be met with. What crowns the 
whole is, the amiable and Christian temper, which those who will 
not be convinced, must, however, approve, and wish that their 
own doctrines may be constantly attended with the same spirit." 

28. "How much good," says Mr. Wesley, "has been occa- 
sioned by the publication of that Circular Letter ! This was the 
happy occasion of Mr. Fletcher's writing those 6 Checks to An- 
tinomianism, 5 in which one knows not which to admire most, the 
purity of the language ; (such as scarce any foreigner wrote be- 
fore ;) the strength and clearness of the argument ; or the mild- 
ness and sweetness of the spirit that breathes throughout the whole. 
Insomuch that I nothing wonder at a serious clergyman, who 
being resolved to live and die in his own opinion, when he was 
pressed to read them, replied, ' No, I will never read Mr. 
Fletcher's Checks : for if I did, I should be of his mind.' " 

29. A short extract from two or three of his letters, will show 
what was his state of mind at this crisis. — " How much water," 
says he to me, August 24, of the same year, " may at last rush out 
from a little opening ! What are our dear 1 — 's jealousies come 
to ? Ah, poor College ! Their conduct, and charges of heresy 
&c. among other reasons, have stirred me up to write in defence 
of the Minutes. I have received this morning a most kind letter 
from Mr. Shirley, whom I pity much now. He is gone to 
Wales, probably to consult (with her 1 — p,) what to do in the 
present case. Methinks I dream, when I reflect I have wrote 
on controversy! The last subject I thought I should have 
meddled with. I expect to be roughly handled on the account. 
Lord, prepare me for this, and every thing that may make me 
cease from man, and above all from your unworthy friend, 

J. F." 

Three months after, he writes as follows in answer to a letter 
of mine, in which I had taken the liberty of adviiing him to use 



iS4 



THE LIFE OF 



much precision in stating the scriptural doctrine respecting 
works being the necessary fruits of faith. His words demon- 
strate the deep humility of his mind, and the mean opinion he 
had of himself, even as a writer, in which province he certainly 
greatly excelled. " I thank you for your caution about works. 
I sent last week a letter of fifty pages upon Antinomianism to the 
Book-Steward. I beg, as upon my bended knees, you would 
revise and correct it, and take off quod durius sonat (what 
sounds harsh) in point of works, (subject,) reproof, and style, 1 
have followed my light, which is but that of a smoking dax : 
put yours to mine. I am charged hereabouts with scattering 
firebrands, arrows, and death. Quench some of my bonds, 
blunt some of my arrows, and take off all my deaths, except 
that which I design for Antinomianism. 

" As I have taken up my pen, I will clear myself in another 
respect, that is, with regard to the Antinomian opposition made 
to Christian Perfection. I have begun my tract, and hope to 
tell the truth in perfect consistency with Mr. Wesley's system. 
I once begged you would give me a copy of what you wrote 
upon it. Now is the time to repeat that request. Send it me, 
(with additions, if you can,) as soon as possible. When I send 
my manuscript to London, remember it will be chiefly for your 
alterations and corrections." 

30. The reader will observe, that at this time his Appeal to 
Matter of Fact and Common Sense, that admirable treatise on the 
subject of original sin, and human depravity, was not published. 
It had indeed been composed near a year before. I saw it in ma- 
nuscript at Madeley the January preceding, and read most of it 
over with him, while his humility induced him constantly to urge, 
•as in the above letter, that 1 would propose any alterations 
*or corrections which I thought proper to be made. In his next 
letter, dated Dec. 10, he mentions the apprehension he was under 
that, the manuscript was lost. He had left it at Bristol, and having 
sent for it from thence, with a view to make some further im- 
j i u\ ( ments in the style or matter, before it was sent to the 
, ■ it had not arrived as expected, nor been heard of for 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



165 



many weeks. However, he was quite easy under the appre- 
hended loss, which certainly would not have been a small one, 
as any person will judge, who considers how much thought and 
time such a work must have cost him. It was found, however, 
by and by, had the finishing hand put to it, and was published 
to the conviction and edification of thousands. I hardly know a 
treatise that has been so universally read, or made so eminently 
useful. 

31. Mr. Fletcher's pen, however, was chiefly employed at 
this time and thenceforward, as long as his health permitted him 
to write at all, on controversial subjects ; subjects in which he 
at first engaged with great reluctance, which he never loved, 
which he was frequently disposed to have relinquished, had a 
sense of duty permitted him so to do ; but which he never re* 
pented having undertaken to discuss and elucidate. — It is true, 
he met with no little opposition, and even reproach, while he 
was engaged in writing on these subjects. As he says in a letter 
to Mr. Charles Wesley, written about this time, he " met with 
the loss of friends, and with the charges of novel chimeras on 
both sides." Some that had loved him as their own souls before, 
being vexed and chagrined at finding their favourite opinions, 
which they had laid as the foundation of their hopes, undermined 
and overthrown, poured forth their abuse in a very liberal man- 
ner. One warm young man in particular, whom I well knew, 
and who, while a student at Trevecka, had revered and loved 
Mr. Fletcher as a father, after using many reproachful expres- 
sions, added, as a finishing stroke, " If you die in the faith your 
book maintains, you will be shut out of heaven." " You see 
by this," says Mr. Fletcher to me, in the letter in which he 
mentions that circumstance, " I cut rather deeper than our 
friends can bear." This was in February 1772, when his Third 
Check, in answer to the author of Pietas Oxoniensis, was in the 
press ; at which time he says, " I long to be out of controversy : 
I make a bridge in my postcript for a retreat :" which words 
were dictated, not by any distrust of the truth or importance of 
the principles he had espoused, or of his ability, through Divine 
aid, to defend them ; but by his love of peace and unanimity 



166 



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among the followers of Jesus, and his great and constant aver- 
sion to dispute and contention. 

32. That Mr. Fletcher had no doubt but controversy, on 
some occasions, is both expedient and necessary, yea, and pro- 
ductive of much good to the Church of God, is certain from 
what he observes on this subject in the beginning of the last- 
mentioned tract. Mr. Hill had said, in the titlepage of his 
Five Letters, to which that tract was an answer, that a concern 
for " mourning backsliders, and such as have been distressed by 
reading Mr. Wesley's Minutes, or the Vindication of them," had 
induced him to write : " Permit me to inform you in my turn," 
says Mr. Fletcher,* " that a fear lest Dr. Crisp's! balm should be 
applied, instead of the balm of Gilead, to Laodicean loiterers, 
who may haply have been brought to penitential distress, 
obliges me to answer you in the same public manner in which 
you address me. Some of our friends will undoubtedly blame 
us for not yet dropping the contested point; but others will 
candidly consider, that controversy, though not desirable in itself, 
yet properly managed, has a hundred times rescued truth groan- 
ing under the lash of triumphant error. We are indebted to 
our Lord's controversies with the Pharisees and scribes for a 
considerable part of the four Gospels. And, to the end of the 
world, the Church will bless God for the spirited manner in 
which St. Paul, in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, de- 
fended the controverted point of a believer's present justifica- 
tion by faith, as well as for the steadiness with which St. James, 
St. John, St. Peter, and St. Jude, carried on their important 
controversy with the Nicolaitans, who abused St. Paul's doc- 
trine to Antinomian purposes. Had it not been for controver- 
sy, Romish priests would to this day feed us with Latin masses 
and a wafer god. Some bold propositions advanced by Luther 
against the doctrine of indulgences, unexpectedly brought on 
the Reformation. They were so irrationally attacked by the 
infatuated Papists, and so scripturally defended by the resolute 



* Third Check, p. 3. 
t Dr. Crisp was an Antinomian in doctrine' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



167 



Protestants, that these kingdoms opened their eyes, and saw 
thousands of images and errors fall before the ark of evange- 
lical truth. 

" From what I have advanced," proceeds Mr. Fletcher, " in 
my Second Check, it appears, if I am not mistaken, that we stand 
now as much in need of a reformation from Antinomianism, as 
our ancestors did of a reformation from Popery ; and I am not 
without hope, that the extraordinary attack which has lately 
been made on Mr. Wesley's Anti-Crispian propositions, and the 
manner in which they are defended, will open the eyes of many p 
and check the rapid progress of so enchanting and pernicious am 
evil. This hope inspires me with fresh courage : and turning 
from the Honourable and Rev. Mr. Shirley, I presume to face, 
I trust in the spirit of love and meekness, my new respectable 
opponent." 

Such were Mr. Fletcher's views when he begun his Third 
Check, and they were not changed when he had finished it, nor 
indeed when he had finished the Fourth, which he wrote in the 
spring of this same year. A friend has favoured me with a let- 
ter of his, in his own hand writing, to Mr. Charles Perronet, so** 
of the Rev. Vincent Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham, dated Sept, 
7, 1 772, in which he observes, " Mr. Hill, sen. hath compli- 
mented me with eleven Letters" (including the former Jive, in an- 
swer to which he wrote the Third Check, and the latter six^ 
which were answered in the Fourth) " and his brother, Mr. R. 
Hill, with another, one half of which is employed in passing 
sentence upon my spirit. I have answered them both in a 
Fourth Check, which I hope will decide the controversy about 
the important Anti-Crispian doctrine of justification by (the evi- 
dence of) works in the last day. If that doctrine stand, there is 
an end of imputed righteousness," that is, in the Antinomian sense 
of the phrase, " absolute election, and predestination. And I 
do not see that they have any thing to object to it, but mere 
cavils which disgrace their cause." 

33. The intelligent and pious person to whom this letter was 
written, was at that time under affliction which had considerably 
reduced his strength and depressed his spirits. The reader 



168 



THE LIFE 01' 



will be pleased, and I hope also profited, by Mr. Fletcher's 
address to him on this occasion, which I copy from the same 
letter. 

" My very dear Friend, 
" No cross, no crown : the heavier the cross, the brighter the 
crown. I wish you joy, while I mourn, about the afflictions 
which work out for you an exceedingly greater weight of glory ; 
(greater, he means, than he could otherwise have enjoyed.) 

* O for a firm and lasting faith, 
To credit all the Almighty salth !* 

Faith, I mean the evidence of things not seen, is a powerful cor- 
dial to support and exhilarate us under the waviest pressures of 
pain and temptation. By faith we see things visible as temporal, 
fading ; as a showy cloud that passes away. By faith we live 
upon the invisible, eternal God : we believe that in him we 
live, move, and have our being : we begin to feel after, find, 
and enjoy our Hoot ; and insensibly we slide from self into 
God, from the visible into the invisible, from the carnal into 
the spiritual, from time into eternity. Here all husks of flesh 
and blood break. Here our spirits are ever young, they live in 
and upon the very fountain of strength, sprightliness, and joy. 
I grant that the unhappy medium of corruptible flesh and blood 
stands much in our way : but, if it hinder us from enjoying God, 
it makes way for our giving more glory to him, by believing his 
naked truth. Oh ! my friend, let us rest more upon the truth as 
it is in Jesus, and it will make us more abundantly free, till we 
are free indeed ; free to suffer as well as to triumph with him. 
Of late I have been brought to feed more upon Jesus as the truth. 
1 see more in him in that character than I ever did. I am per- 
suaded that, if you study him, you will see new beauties in him 
in that point of view. Perpetual comforts are hardly consistent 
with a state of trial. (I except the comforts that are insepara- 
ble from a calm acquiescing in the truth, and the enjoyment of a 
good conscience.) Our bodies cannot long bear raptures : but 
( h<> silent beams of truth can always insinuate themselves into 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



169 



the believing soul, to stay it upon the couch of pain, and in the 
arms of death. I see Christ the truth of my life, friends, rela- 
tions, sense, food, raiment, light, fire, resting-place, &c. All out 
of him are hut shadows. All in him are blessed sacraments, I 
mean visible signs of the fountain, or little vehicles to convey 
the streams of inward grace. As for pain, &c. it is only the 
struggle of fallen nature, in order to a full birth into the world 
of unmixed bliss. Let us bear it cheerfully, as Sarah did, when 
she was delivered of Isaac. I am glad the Lord supports you 
under your troubles. Arise, be of good cheer, thy sins are for- 
given thee. Enjoy one blessing as much as nature would repine 
under ten crosses. The Lord direct us by his light, and fill us 
with his love. The God of peace be with you, and raise you 
up to stand by his truth and people, and become more ripe for 
glory ! Adieu ! I am yours in Him who is all in all. 

J. F.» 

34. God, however, did not see fit to grant this request of his 
servant. Mr. C. Perronet's health declined more and more, and 
in less than four years after the affliction terminated in his death. 
The following short extract of a letter, addressed by Mr. 
Fletcher to his reverend and pious father on this occasion, will 
at once edify and please the reader. 

" Honoured and Rev. Sir, 
" To inform you of what you cannot but be acquainted with is 
superfluous, but to congratulate you upon what I know you exult 
in, is the duty both of religion and friendship. Methinks then, 
1 see you, Right Honoured Sir, mounted as another Moses on 
the top of Pisgah, and through the telescope of faith descrying 
the promised land ; or rather, in the present instance, I observe 
you standing, like another Joshua, on the banks of Jordan, view= 
ing all Israel, with your son among them, passing over the river 
to their great possessions. Permit me, therefore, in considera- 
tion of your years and office, to exclaim , in the language of young 
Eiisha to his ancient seer, ' My father ! My father ! The cha- 
riots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof, * 

22 



170 



THE LtFE OF 



" There, there they are, and there is he, your son : 
Whom faith pursues, and eager hope discerns, 
In yon bright chariot as a cherub borne 
On wings of love, to uncreated realms 
Of deathless joy, and everlasting peace." 

35. The preceding letters, and others written about the same 
time, with the testimony of divers of his friends who were in 
the habit of seeing and conversing with him frequently, make it 
evident that Mr. Fletcher's spirit suffered no declension as to ge- 
nuine piety, meekness, or benevolence, during this controversy. 

Sept. 21, 1773, he says to Mr. Ireland : — " I see life so short, 
and that time passes away with such rapidity, that I should be 
very glad to spend it in solemn prayer ; but it is necessary that 
a man should have some exterior occupation. The chief thing 
is to employ ourselves profitably. My throat is not formed for 
the labours of preaching : when I have preached three or 
four times together, it inflames and fills up ; and the efforts 
which I am then obliged to make in speaking heat my blood. 
Thus I am, by nature, as well as by the circumstances I am in, 
obliged to employ my time in writing a little. O that I may be 
enabled to do it to the glory of God ! Let us love this good 
God, who hath so loved the ivorld, that he gave his only begotten 
Son, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life. How 
sweet is it, on our knees, to receive this Jesus, this heavenly 
gift, and to offer our praises and thanks to our heavenly Father ! 
The Lord teaches me four lessons ; the first is, to be thankful 
that I am not in hell ; the second, to become nothing before 
him: the third, to receive the gift of God, — the person of 
Jesus ; and the fourth, to feel my want of the Spirit of Jesus, 
and to wait for it. These four lessons are very deep : O when 
shall I have learned them ! Let us go together to the school of 
Jesus, and learn to be meek and lowly in heart. Adieu. " 

J. F." 

About six months afterward, his words to the same person are, 
" I have just spirit enough to enjoy my solitude, and to bless 
God that 1 am out of the hurry of the world — even the spi- 
ritual world. I tarry gladly in my Jerusalem, till the kingdom of 



THE REV* JOHN FLETCHER. 



•171 



God come with power. Till then it matters not where I am : 
only as my chief call is here, here I gladly stay, till God fit me 
for the pulpit or the grave* I still spend my mornings in scrib- 
bling. Though I grudge so much time in writing, yet a man 
must do something ; and I may as well investigate truth as do 
any thing else, except solemn praying, and visiting my flock. I 
shall be glad to have done with my present avocation, that I 
may give myself up more to those two things." 

36. He was now engaged in writing his " Equal Check to 
Pharisaism and Antinomianism," which he intended to be, and 
which certainly is, " as much in behalf of free grace as of holi- 
ness." " It will be of a reconciling nature," says he, " and on 
a plan on which all the candid and moderate will be able to 
shake hands." This Check was written in the latter end of the 
year 1773, and the beginning of 1774, and published soon after ; 
at which time the common and equal friend of Mr. Fletcher 

and Lady H , had proposed an interview between them* 

On this occasion Mr. Fletcher writes as follows : 

" In the present circumstances it was a great piece of conde- 
scension in dear Lady Huntingdon to be willing to see me 
privately ; but for her to permit me to wait upon her openly, de- 
notes such generosity, such courage, and a mind so much supe- 
rior to the narrowness that clogs the charity of most professors, 
that it would have amazed me, if every thing that is noble and 
magnanimous were not to be expected from her ladyship. It 
is well for her that spirits are imprisoned in flesh and blood, or I 
might by this time (and it is but an hour since I received your 
letter) have troubled her ten times with my apparition, to wish 
her joy of being above the dangerous snare of professors, — the 
smiles and frowns of the religious world ; and to thank her a 
thousand times for not being ashamed of her old servant, and for 
cordially forgiving him all that is past, upon the score of the 
Lord's love, and of my honest meaning." 

A few weeks after, he observes further : " How kind is my 
Lady to offer to interpose, and to wipe off the aspersions of my 
London accusers. I had before sent my reply, which was only 
a plain narrative of two facts, upon which, it appeared to me, 
the capital charges were founded, together with some gmth 



172 



THJS LIFE OF 



expostulations, which I hope have had the desired effect. Give 
my duty to my Lady, and thank her a thousand times for this 
new addition to all her former favours, till I have an opportunity 
of doing it in person. 

" I get very slowly out of the mire of my controversy, and 
yet I hope to get over it, if God spare my life, in two or three 
pieces more. Since I wrote last, I have added to my Equal 
Check a piece which I call 'An Essay on Truth, or a Rational 
Vindication of the Doctrine of Salvation hy Faith/ which I 
have taken the liberty to dedicate to Lady Huntingdon, to have 
an opportunity of clearing her ladyship from the charge of 
Antinomianism. 1 have taken this step in the simplicity of my 
heart, and as due from me, in my circumstances, to the charac- 
ter of her ladyship. Mr. H — t — n called some time after the 
letter was printed, and said, ' It will not be well taken.' I 
hope better ; but be it as it may, I shall have the satisfaction of 
having meant well." 

37. As Mr. Fletcher's own views of this controversy, when 
it appeared to be drawing to a close, and the state of his mind 
at that period, are certainly very important particulars of his 
life, and distinguishing traits of his character ; and as they will 
be best learned from the private and confidential letters, which 
were written at the time to his intimate friends, the reader will 
not be sorry to see them still further delineated in extracts from 
two or three more of his epistles. Those addressed to me I 
the rather insert, as no part of them has been published before, 
and, I think, they all contain observations well worthy of being 
known and preserved, and which would probably otherwise perish 
in oblivion. March 20, 1774, he wrote to me as follows : 

" My dear Brother, 
" I am two kind letters in your debt ; for both which accept 
the best thanks that grateful brotherly love can muster up in my 
breast. Your first letter I did not answer through a variety of 
avocations : the second I answer by our Elijah, (Mr. Wesley.) 
I do not repent having engaged in the present controversy, for 
though I think my little publications cannot reclaim those who 
"arc given up to believe the lie of the day, yet they may here 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



173 



and there stop one from swallowing it at all, or from swallowing 
it so deeply as otherwise he might have done. In preaching I 
do not meddle with the points discussed, unless my text lead 
me to it, and then I think them important enough not to be 
ashamed of them before my people. 

" I am just finishing an Essay on Truth, which I dedicate to 
Lady H — — , wherein you will see my latest views of that im- 
portant subject. My apprehensions of things have not changed 
since I saw you last ; save that in one thing I have seen my 
error. An over-eager attention to the doctrine of the Spirit, 
has made me, in some degree, overlook the medium by which 
the Spirit works, I mean the Word of Truth, which is the wood 
by which the heavenly fire warms us. I rather expected light- 
ning, than a steady fire by means of fuel. I mention my error 
to you lest you too should be involved therein. May the Lord 
help us to steer clear of every rock. My controversy weighs 
upon my hands : but I must go through with it, which I hope 
will be done in two or three pieces more : one of which, 
4 Scripture Scales to weigh the Gold of Gospel Truth,' may be 
more useful than the Checks, as being more literally scriptural. 

I have exchanged a couple of friendly letters with Lady H 

who gives me leave to see her publicly : but I think it best to 
postpone that honour till I have cleared my mind. Should you 
see my Essay on Truth, I pray God it may help you to discern 
the depth of Rom. x. 10. By overlooking the rounds of the 
mysterious ladder of truth that are within our reach, and fixing 
our eyes on those that are above us, we are often at a stand, 
and give ourselves and others needless trouble. I shall be glad 
to see the productions of your pen. I hope they will add to 
my little stock of truth and love. Let us believe in our Lord 
Jesus Christ.— Let us love one another, serve our generation, 
and hopefully wait for the glorious revelation of the Son of God. 
That your soul may live the most abundant life, is the prayer 
of your loving brother, 

J. F." 

38. The Essay on Truth, referred to by Mr. Fletcher in so 
many of the letters which he wrote, about this time* was viewed 



174 



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by him as peculiarly important, and as containing doctrines 
particularly suited to the state of the Church of Christ at that 
time. " I am glad," says he to Mr. Charles Wesley, in the 
beginning of the next year, " you did not altogether disapprove 
of my Essay on Truth. The letter, I grant, profiteth little, 
until the Spirit animate it. I had, some weeks ago, one of those 
touches which realize, or rather spiritualize, the letter ; and it 
convinced me more than ever that what I say in that tract of 
the spirit, and of faith, is truth. — I am also persuaded that the 
faith and spirit, which belong to perfect Christianity, are at a 
very low ebb, even among believers. When the Son of Man 
cometh to set up his kingdom, shall he find Christian faith upon 
the earth ? Yes, but I fear, as little as he found of Jewish 
faith, when he came in the flesh. I believe you cannot rest 
with the easy Antinomian, or the busy Pharisee. You and I 
have nothing to do but to die to all that is of a sinful nature, and 
to pray for the power of an endless life. God make us faithful to 
our convictions, and keep us from the snares of outward things ! 

" I feel the force of what you say, in your last, about the 
danger of so encouraging the inferior dispensations, as to make 
people rest short of the faith which belongs to perfect Christi- 
anity. I have tried to obviate it in some parts of the Equal 
Check, and hope to do it more effectually in my reply to Mr. 
Hill's Creed for Perfectionists. I expect a letter from you on 
the subject : write with openness, and do not fear to discourage 
me by speaking your disapprobation of what you dislike. My 
aim is to be found at the feet of all, bearing and forbearing, until 
truth and love bring better days." 

39. About this time, having used, in some small degree, the 
liberty which his humility induced him to give me, and having 
sent him two or three trivial remarks on some expressions which 
occurred in the above-mentioned Essay, I received from him 
the following letter, which I think important enough to be in- 
serted here, and with which I shall close this chapter. 

" My dear Brother, 
" I have had two printers upon my heels, besides my common 
business, and this is enough to make me trespass upon the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 175 

patience of my friends. I have published the first part of my 
Scales, which has gone through a second edition in London, 
before I could get the second part printed in Salop, where it 
will be published in about six weeks. I have also published a 
Creed for the Arminians, where you will see that, if I have not 
answered your critical remarks upon my Essay on Truth, 1 have 
improved by them, yea publicly recanted the two expressions 
you mentioned as improper. For any such remarks I shall 
always be peculiarly thankful to you, and hope you will always 
find me open to conviction. With respect to the Sermons you 
have thoughts of publishing, I say, Follow your own conscience 
and the axlvice of the judicious friends about you : and put me 
among your subscribers, as I believe they will be worth a care- 
ful perusal, as well as to matter, as method and style. I am so 
tied up here, both by my parish duty and controversial writings, 
that I cannot hope to see you unless you come into these parts. 
In the meantime let us meet at the throne of grace. Tn Jesus, 
time and distance are lost. He is an universal, eternal life of 
righteousness, peace, and joy. I am glad you have some 
encouragement in Scotland. The Lord grant you more and 
more. Use yourself, however, to go against wind and tide, as I 
do, and take care that our wise dogmatical friends in the North 
do not rob you of your childlike simplicity. Remember that 
the mysteries of the kingdom are revealed to babes. You may 
be afraid of being a fool, without being afraid of being a babe. 
You may be childlike without being childish. Simplicity of 
intention and purity of affection will go through the world, 
through hell itself. In the meantime let us see that we do not 
so look at our little publications, or to other people, as to forget 
that Christ is our object, our sun, our shield. To Ins inspira- 
tion, comfort, and protection, I earnestly recommend your soul ; 
and the labours of your heart, tongue, and pen, to his blessing ; 
entreating you to beg, at the throne of grace, all the wis- 
dom and grace needful for your steady, afifectionate friend and 
brother, 

J. F. r? 



ITS 



i be Lir*; or 



CHAPTER VI. 

Of his declining Slate of Health, the Progress of Jus Disorder 
and his Behaviour under it, ivith an Account of his other Po- 
lemical Writings^ and the Conclusion of the Controversy. 

? . ThE frequent journeys which Mr. Fletcher took to and from 
Trevecka, while he presided over the College, in all weathers, 
and at all seasons of the year, greatly impaired the firmness of hi? 
constitution. And in some of those journeys, he had not only 
difficulties, but dangers likewise to encounter. One day, as he 
was riding over a wooden bridge, just as he got to the middle 
thereof, it broke in. The mare's fore legs sunk into the river, 
but her breast and hinder parts were kept up by the bridge. In 
that position she lay, as still as if she had been dead, till he got 
over her neck, and took off his bags, in which were several 
manuscripts, the spoiling of which would have occasioned him 
much trouble. He then endeavoured to raise her up ; but she 
would not stir, till he went over the other part of the bridge. 
But no sooner did he set his foot upon the ground than she be- 
gan to plunge. Immediately the remaining part of the bridge 
broke down and sunk with her into the river. But presently she 
rose up again, swam out, and came to him. 

2. About this time, Mr. Pilmoor being desirous to see the in- 
side of a coalpit, Mr. Fletcher went with him to the bottom of 
a sloping pit, which was supposed to be near a mile under the 
ground. They returned out of it without any inconvenience. 
But the next day, while several colliers were there, a damp took 
fne, which went off with a vast explosion, and killed all the 
men that were in it. 

3. In February, 1773, Mr. Wesley received from him th« 
following letter : 

" Rev. and dear Sir, 
" I hope the Lord, who has so wonderfully stood by you 
hitherto, will preserve you to see many of your sheep, and ny* 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. v 177 

among them, enter into rest. Should Providence call you first, I 
shall do my best, by the Lord's assistance, to help your brother to 
gather the wreck, and keep together those who are not absolutely 
bent to throw away the Methodist doctrines and discipline, as 
soon as he that now letteth is removed out of the way. Every 
help will then be necessary, and I shall not be backward to 
throw in my mite. In the meantime you sometimes need an as- 
sistant to serve tables, and occasionally fill up a gap. Provi- 
dence visibly appointed me to that office many years ago. And 
though it no less evidently called me hither, yet I have not been 
without doubts, especially for some years past, whether it would 
not be expedient that I should resume my office as your deacon ; 
not with any view of presiding over the Methodists after you 
but to ease you a little in your old age, and to be in the way of re- 
ceiving, perhaps doing, more good. I have sometimes thought 
how shameful it was that no clergyman should join you, to keep 
in the church the work God has enabled you to carry on therein. 
And as the little estate I have in my own country is sufficient 
for my maintenance, I have thought I would, one day or other, 
oner you and the Methodists my free service.' While my love 
of retirement made me linger, I was providentially led to do 
something on Lady Huntingdon's plan. But being shut out 
there, it appears to me I am again called to my first work. 
Nevertheless I would not leave this place without a fuller per- 
suasion that the time is quite come. Not that God uses me much 
here ; but I have not yet sufficiently cleared my conscience from 
the blood of all men. Meantime I beg the Lord to guide me 
by his counsel, and make me willing to go any where or no- 
where, to be any thing or nothing. Help by your prayers, till 
you can bless by word of mouth, Rev. and dear Sir, your willing 
fhough unprofitable servant in the Gospel, 

Madeley, Feb. 6, 1773. J. F.' 5 

4. On this letter Mr. Wesley remarks as follows : " 4 Provi 
dence,' says Mr. Fletcher, 1 visibly appointed me to that office 
many years ago.' Is it any wonder then, that he should now be 
in doubt, whether he did right in confining himself to one spot • 

23 



178 



THE LIFE OF 



The more I reflect upon it, the more I am convinced he had 
great reason to doubt of this. I can never believe it was the 
will of God that such a burning and shining light should be hid 
under a bushel. No, instead of being confined to a country vil- 
lage, it ought to have shone in every corner of our land. He 
was full as much called to sound an alarm through all the nation 
as Mr. Whitefield himself: nay, abundantly more so, seeing he 
was far better qualified for that important work. He had a more 
striking person, equal good breeding, an equally winning address : 
together with a richer flow of fancy, a stronger understanding, a 
far greater treasure of learning, both in languages, philosophy, 
philology, and divinity ; and above all, (which I can speak with 
fuller assurance, because I had a thorough knowledge both of 
one and the other) a more deep and constant communion with 
the Father, and with the Son, Jesus Christ. 

" And yet let not any one imagine that I depreciate Mr. White- 
field, or undervalue the grace of God, and the extraordinary 
gifts which his great Master vouchsafed unto him. I believe 
he was highly favoured of God ; yea, that he was one of the 
most eminent ministers that has appeared in England, or per- 
haps in the world, during the present century. Yet I must own, 
I have known many fully equal to Mr. Whitefield, both in holy 
tempers and holiness of conversation : but one equal herein to 
Mr. Fletcher, I have not known, no, not in a life of four- 
score years. 

5. " However, having chosen," proceeds Mr. Wesley, " at 
least for the present, this narrow field of action, he was more and 
more abundant in his ministerial labours, both in public and in 
private : not contenting himself with preaching, but visiting his 
flock in every corner of his parish. And this work he attended 
to, early or late, whether the weather was fair or foul ; regard- 
ing neither heat nor cold, rain nor snow, whether he was on 
horseback or on foot. But this farther weakened his constitu- 
tion ; which was still more effectually impaired by his intense 
and uninterrupted studies; in which he frequently continued, 
almost without any intermission, fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen 
hours a day. But still he did not allow himself such food as 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



17.9 



was necessary to sustain nature. He seldom took any regular 
meals, except he had company : otherwise twice or thrice in 
four and twenty hours, he ate some bread and cheese, or 
fruit. Instead of this he sometimes took a draught of milk, 
and then wrote on again." 

6. The works which Mr. Fletcher had in hand, chiefly, at 
this time, were three; 1. " Zelotes and Honestus reconciled: 
or, An Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism con- 
tinued," including the first and second Part of the Scripture 
Scales ; 2. " The Fictitious and Genuine, Creed ;" and 3. His 
Treatise on Christian Perfection, termed by him, " A Polemi- 
cal Essay on the Twin Doctrines of Christian Imperfection and 
a Death Purgatory." All these were published in the year 
1775, and the two former, it seems, written in the year pre- 
ceding. He had promised also to his readers an answer to 
Mr. Toplady's pamphlet, entitled " More work for Mr. Wes- 
ley." But this he postponed for the present, because he 
judged the pieces just mentioned to be of greater importance, 
and therefore as deserving and requiring his earliest attention. 
" He saw life," as he observes in an advertisement prefixed to 
the first edition of his Scripture Scales, " to be so uncertain, 
that, of two things, which he was obliged to do, he thought it 
his duty to set about that which appeared to him the more 
useful. He considered also that it was proper to have quite 
done with Mr. Hill before he faced Mr. Toplady. And he 
hoped that to lay before the judicious a complete system of 
truth, which, like the sun, recommends itself by its own lustre, 
was perhaps the best method to prove that error, which shines 
only as a meteor, is nothing but a mock sun. However, he fully 
designed, he says, to perform his engagement in a short time, if 
his life were spared." 

7. This was his language, Nov. 12, 1774; and on July the 
12th following, in a letter to me from Madeley, he says, "I 
have just finished my treatise on Perfection, It will be a large 
book : but I thought I must treat the subject fully, or not meddle 
with it." This he had no sooner completed than he began 
other equally important works. In the second part of fyis 



180 



THE LIKE OF 



Scripture Scales, he had advertised a tract in the following 
words ; " The Doctrines of Grace reconciled to the Doctrines 
of Justice, being an Essay on Election and Reprobation, in 
which the defects of Pelagianism, Calvinism, and Arminianism, 
are impartially pointed out, and primitive, scriptural harmony 
is more fully restored to the Gospel of the day." It is pro- 
bable that he had this chiefly in his view, together with the fore- 
mentioned answer to Mr. Toplady, when in the latter end of 
the same year, he says to Mr. Charles Wesley, " I see the 
end of my controversial race, and I have such courage to run 
it out, that I think it my bounden duty to run and strike my 
blow, and fire my gun, before the water of discouragement has 
quite wetted the gunpowder of my activity." This allusion 
to the work of a soldier, dropped from his pen in^the beginning 
of the American war, (which seems to have suggested the idea,) 
when the dispute between Great Britain and her Colonies be- 
came so hot, and threatened such dreadful calamities to both 
countries, that the attention even of religious people was gene- 
rally turned from every other controversy to that alone. Mr. 
Fletcher therefore deferred the publication, and, I believe, the 
finishing of the tracts just mentioned, for the present ; and from 
a sense of duty to his king and country, as well as to the church 
of God both here and in America, begun to employ his pen, 
for a few weeks, on political subjects ; writing first " A Vin- 
dication of Mr. Wesley's Calm Address to our American Colo- 
nies, in three letters to Mr. Caleb Evans," and then a second 
tract on the same subject, termed " American Patriotism farther 
confronted with Reason, Scripture, and the Constitution ; being 
observations on the dangerous Politics taught by the Rev. Mr. 
Evans and the Rev. Dr. Price." 

8. Mr. Fletcher's motives for engaging in this dispute were 
perfectly pure. He considered " the American Controversy," 
as he states in his preface to the former of these pieces, " to be 
closely connected with Christianity in general, and with Pro- 
testantism in particular ; and that, of consequence, it was of a 
religious, as well as of a civil nature." In other words, he con- 
sidered Christianity as enjoining " the practice of strict morality. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER.. 



181 



and that it is an important branch of such morality to honour and 
obey the king, and all that are put in authority under him ; to 
order ourselves lowly and reverently to all our betters, to hurt 
no one by word or deed, to be true and just in all our dealings, 
giving every one his due, tribute to whom tribute, and custom to 
whom custom. He thought, therefore, if divinity could cast any 
light upon the question, which divided Great Britain and her 
Colonies, that it was not impertinent in divines to hold out the 
light of their science, and peaceably to use what the apostle calls 
the " sword of the Spirit :" that the material sword, unjustly 
drawn by those who were in the wrong, might be sheathed 5 and 
that a speedy end might be put to the effusion of Christian 
blood." He also judged that H many of the Colonists were as 
pious as they were brave, and hoped that, while their undaunted 
fortitude made them scorn to bow under an hostile arm, which 
shot the deadly lightning of war, their humble piety might dis- 
pose them, or at least some of them, to regard a friendly hand 
which held out an olive branch, a Bible, and the articles of reli- 
gion, drawn by their favourite reformer, Calvin." His publica- 
tions on this subject, as well as Mr. Wesley's a Calm Address," 
certainly were of great use, not indeed to prevent the continua- 
tion and further progress of the war, and stop the effusion of 
blood abroad ; but to allay the spirit of disloyalty and insurrec- 
tion which were beginning to show themselves at home ; or, in 
his language, to remove the mistakes, which, after having 
armed the provincials against Great Britain, had begun to work 
in the breasts of many good men in this country, and which, if 
not removed, might have produced effects, such as the survivors 
of them might long have had reason to deplore. 

9. Both these tracts were published in the year 1776, in the 
beginning of which, or in the latter end of 1775, (for the letter 
is without date,) he writes in his usual strain of self-abasement. 
" If you have seen my last Check, (the Polemical Essay above- 
mentioned) I shall be glad to have a few of your theological cri- 
ticisms upon it. I have unaccountably launched into Chris- 
tian politics ; a branch of divinity too much neglected by some, 
and too much attended to by others. If you have seen my Vin- 



1S2 



THE LiF£ OF 



dication of Mr. Wesley's Calm Address, and can make sense of 
that badly printed piece, it shall be thankful for your very dis- 
praise." To another friend he writes, about the same time, 
• My little political piece is published in London. You thank 
me for it beforehand, — I believe they are the only thanks I 
shall have. It is well you sent them before you read the book ; 
and yet, whatever contempt it brings upon me, I still think I have 
written the truth. If you did read my publications, I would beg 
you to cast a look upon that, and reprove what appears to you 
amiss ; for if I have been wrong in writing, I hope I shall not 
be so excessively wrong as not to be thankful for any reproof 
candidly levelled at what I have written. I prepare myself to 
be like my Lord, in my little measure, — I mean to be despised 
and rejected of men — a man of sorrows and acquainted with 
griefs — most reviled for what I mean best. The Lord strengthen 
you in body and soul, to do and suffer his will. Adieu. 

J. F." 

10. That Mr. Fletcher meant well, and that he was perfectly 
disinterested in writing these political pieces, no one will doubt 
that had any acquaintance with him. Certainly he had no view 
to any gain or emolument whatever ; nor would he, according 
to Mr. Vaughan, accept any compensation when offered him. 
c< After Mr. Fletcher had published two or three small political 
pieces, in reference to our contest with the Americans, I carried 
one of them (says he in a letter to Mr. Wesley) to the earl of 
D. His lordship carried it to the lord chancellor, and the 
lord chancellor handed it to the king. One was immediately 
commissioned to ask Mr. Fletcher, whether any preferment in 
the church would be acceptable ? Or whether he (the chan- 
cellor) could do him any service ? He answered, " I want 
nothing, but more grace." 

As a further proof of Mr. Fletcher's disinterestedness, and to 
show in how great a degree he was disengaged from 

" Wealth, honour, pleasure, or what else 
Thi? short-enduring world could give, 1 ' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



183 



Mr. V. adds, " In 1776, he deposited with me a bill of one hun- 
dred and five pounds, being (as I understood) the yearly produce 
of his estate in Switzerland. This was his fund for charitable 
uses : but it lasted only a few months, before he drew upon me 
for the balance, which was twenty-four pounds, to complete the 
preaching-house in Madeley-Wood." 

11. The reader must observe here, that Mr. Fletcher's health 
had been declining much for some time, as appears by sundry 
passages in his letters to his friends. Two years before this, 
viz. in March 1774, he says to Mr. Ireland: " Oh! how life 
goes ! I walked, now I gallop, into eternity. The bowl of life 
goes rapidly down the steep hill of time. Let us be wise ; 
embrace we Jesus and the resurrection. Let us trim our lamps, 
and continue to give ourselves to him that bought us, till we can 
do it without reserve." In the middle of the following year, 
a little after Mr. Wesley had been dangerously ill in Ireland, he 
observes to me in a letter, " God has lately shaken Mr. Wesley 
over the grave ; but notwithstanding, I believe, (from the strength 
of his constitution and the weakness of mine, which is much 
broken since I saw you,) he will survive me. So that I do not 
scheme about helping to make up the gap, when that great tree 
shall fall. Sufficient for that day will that trouble be ; nor will 
the Divine power be then insufficient to help the people in time 
of need." These words were spoken with a reference to a 
letter of mine to him, in which I had intimated that I thought 
his help would be wanted, in case of Mr. Wesley's death, in the 
government of the societies, and in conducting the work of God. 
And, as the reader will easily observe, if they were not uttered 
in the spirit of prophecy, at least the event was as he con- 
jectured. 

In the latter end of the same year, he says to Mr. Charles 
Wesley : — " Old age comes faster upon me than upon you. I 
am already so gray-headed, that I wrote to my brother to know 
if I am not fifty-six instead of forty-six. The wheel of time 
moves so rapidly, that I seem to be in a new element ; and yet, 
praised be God, my strength is preserved far better than I could 
expect. I came home last night at eleven o'clock, tolerably 



384 



THE LIFE OF 



well, after reading prayers and preaching twice, and giving the 
sacrament, in my own church, and preaching again, and meeting 
a few people in society, at the next market town. The Lord 
is wonderfully gracious to me ; and what is more to me than 
many favours, he helps me to see his mercies in a clearer light. 
In years past, I did not dare to be thankful for mercies which 
now make me shout for joy, I had been taught to call them 
common mercies ; and I made as little of them, as apostates do of 
the blood of Christ when they call it a common thing. But now 
the veil begins to rend, and I invite you and all the world to 
praise God for his patience, truth, and loving-kindness, which 
have followed me all my days, and prevented me, not only is 
the night watches, but in the past ages of eternity. O how I hate 
the delusion which has robbed me of so many comforts ! Fare- 
well. I am, &c. 

J. F." 

12. He now became sensible he had gone to an extreme in 
such close and continued thinking and writing, and that, for the 
preservation of any degree of health, it would be necessary he 
should use some relaxation, and take exercise in the open air. 
He therefore observes to Mr. Ireland, in February next : — " A 
young clergyman offers to assist me ; if he do, I may make an 
excursion somewhere this spring : where it will be I do not 
know. It may be into eternity ; for I dare not depend on to- 
morrow : but should it be your way, I shall inform you of a 
variety of family trials, which the Lord has sent me, — all for 
good, to break my will in every possible respect." 

He speaks to the same purpose, but more at large, to me in 
a letter written about the same time ; which sufficiently mani- 
fests the blessed state of his mind during these painful exercises. 

" My very dear brother, 
" I have long wished to hear from you. If I remember right, 
when you wrote me a few lines from Leeds, you intimated that 
you would let me hear from you more fully. Either my hopes 
hftfe (Irmmrd it. or your many avocations have (as yet) pre- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



185 



vented your indulging me with a line. Be that as it will, I send 
this to inquire after your welfare in every sense, and to let you 
know, that though 1 am pretty well in body, I break fast, — and 
that I want to break faster in spirit than I do ; though, blessed 
be God, I have been put into such pinching, grinding circum- 
stances for near a year, by a series of providential and domestic 
trials, as have given me some deadly blows : may the wounds be 
never healed ! May all the life of self, which is the vital blood 
of the old Adam, flow out at the cuts ! I am not without hopes 
of setting my eyes on you once more. Mr. Wesley kindly 
invited me some weeks ago to travel with him, and visit some of 
the Societies. The controversy is partly over, and I feel an in- 
clination to break one of my chains, (parochial retirement,) 
which may be a nest for self. A young minister, in deacon's 
orders, has offered to be my curate ; and, if he can live in this 
wilderness, I shall have some liberty to leave it. I commit 
the matter entirely to the Lord. To lie at the beck of Provi- 
dence, to do or not to do, to have or not to have, is, I think, in 
such cases, a becoming frame of mind." 

In the same letter he observes : — " The few professors I see 
in these parts are so far from what I could wish them and myself 
to be, that I cannot but cry out, Lord, how long wilt thou give 
thine heritage to desolation or barrenness ? How long shall the 
heathen say, Where is now their indwelling God ? I hope it is 
better with you in the North. I have got acquainted, by letter, 
with a sensible man, who calls himself an expectant of the king- 
dom of God, with whom (so far as I know) I perfectly agree- 
He is a Nathaniel, and a Simeon indeed. You would love him 
if you knew him I look upon your discoveries in the field and 
mines of truth as mine. I hope you will not deprive me of what 
I have a right to share in, according to the old rule, they had all 
things common. What are your heart, your pen, your tongue 
doing ? Are they receiving, sealing, spreading the truth every 
where within your sphere ? Are you dead to praise or dispraise ? 
Could you quietly pass for a mere fool, and have gross nonsense 
Mhered upon you without any uneasy reflection of self The 

24 



i£6 LIJ'E OF 

Lord bless you ; the Lord make you a child and a father. 
Beware of your grand enemy, earthly wisdom and unbelieving 
reasonings. You will never overcome, but by childlike, loving 
simplicity. — Adieu. 

J. F." 

1 3. Of the invitation which he had received to travel with 
Mr. Wesley, referred to in the above letter, Mr, Wesley speaks? 
as follows, in his account of Mr. Fletcher's Life. 

" In the same year, his health being more than ever impaired 
by a violent cough, accompanied with spitting of blood, (of 
which I had had large experience myself ;) having frequently 
•seen the surprising effects of constant exercise, together with 
change of air, I told him nothing was so likely to restore his 
health as a long journey. I therefore proposed his taking a 
journey of some months with me, through various parts of 
England and Scotland ; telling him, " When you are tired, or 
like it best, you may come into my carriage ; but remember, 
that riding on horseback is the best of all exercises for yow, so 
far as your strength will permit." He looked upon this as a 
call from Providence, and very willingly accepted of the pro- 
posal. We set out (as I am accustomed to do) early in spring, 
•and travelled by moderate journeys, suited to his strength, which 
gradually increased, eleven or twelve hundred miles." 

14. We are not to infer from this account, however, that he 
travelled all the spring, summer, and autumn, with Mr. Wesley, 
lie wrote to me from Madeley, in May and in September, and 
lo other friends in March and August, and from Bristol to some- 
friends in July. The case, I believe, was this: he joined Mr. 
Wesley at London, or more probably at Bristol, in the latter 
end of February, or the beginning of March, and accompanied 
him on his journeys through Gloucestershire, and Worcester- 
shire, and a part of Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire, 
lie did not, however, proceed further North with him at that 
lime, but stopped at Madeley in the latter end of March, for 
reasons which he mentions to me in the following letter, written 
-oon after ! 



THE »EV* JOHN FLETCHER, 



187 



•> My dear Brother, 
" I thank you for your letter* I would have answered you 
before had I not been overdone with writing. I have just con- 
cluded an answer to Mr. Evans and Dr. Price ; a work which I 
have undertaken with a desire to serve the cause of religion, 
as well as that of loyalty. This work has prevented me from 
following Mr. Wesley, as well as the uncertainty in which the 
clergyman who is here with me (a student from Edmund-Hall) 
left me, with respect to his stay. And as he has just accepted 
of a place near Manchester, I shall be still without a curate. I 
see so little fruit in these parts that I am almost disheartened, 
both with respect to the power of the word, and the experience 
of the professors I converse with. I am closely followed with 
the thought that the kingdom in the Holy Ghost is almost lost ; 
and that faith in the dispensation of the Spirit is at a very low 
ebb. But it may be I think so on account of my little expe- 
rience, and the weakness of the faith of those I converse with. 
It may be better in all other places. I shall be glad to travel 
a little to see the goodness of the land. God deliver us from 
all extremes, and make and keep us humble, loving, disinte- 
rested, and zealous ! 1 have almost run my race of scribbling. 
1 preached before Mr. Greaves came, as much as my strength 
could well admit, although to little purpose. But I must not 
complain. If one person receive a good desire in ten years, by 
my instrumentality, it is a greater honour than I deserve ; an 
honour for which I should think I could not be too thankful, if 
my mind were as low as it ought to be. Let us bless the Lord 
for all things. We have reasons innumerable to do it. Bless 
him on my account as well as your own, and the God of peace 
be with you ; nor forget to ask that he may be with your 
sincere friend, 

J. F.' ? 

lo. Thus, notwithstanding the discouragements he met with, 
and his increasing state of weakness, he still went on with his 
work of writing and preaching as he was able : buying up, for 
ihese purposes, every moment of time which he possibly could, 



THE LIFE OF 



and attending, above all, to the progress of grace in his own 
soul. " I thought," says he to Mr. Vaughan, " I should soon 
have done with controversy ; but now I give up the hope of 
having done with it before I die. There are three sorts of 
people I must continually attack, or defend myself against, — 
Gallios, Pharisees, aud Antinomians. I hope I shall die in 
this harness, fighting against some of them. I do not, how- 
ever, forget, that the Gallio, the Simon, and the Nicolas 
within, are far more dangerous to me than those without. 
Jn my own heart, that immense field, I must first fight the 
Lord's battles and my own. Help me here, join me in this 
field. All Christians are here militia-men, if they are not 
professed soldiers. O my friend, I need wisdom, — meekness 
of wisdom ! A heart full of it is better than all your cider 
vault full of the most generous liquors ; and it is in Christ 
for us. O go and ask for you and me, and I shall ask for 
myself and you. What a mercy is it that our Lord bears 
stock ! May we not be ashamed nor afraid to come, and 
beg every moment for wine and milk, grace and wisdom. 

" Beware, my friend of the world : let not its cares, nor the 
deceitfulness of its riches, keep or draw you from Jesus. Be- 
fore you handle the birdlime, be sure you dip your heart and 
hand in the oil of grace. Time flies. Years of plenty, and 
of scarcity, of peace and of war, disappear before the eternity 
to which we are all hastening. May we see now the winged 
despatch of time, as we shall see it in a dying hour ; and by com- 
ing to, and abiding in Christ, our fortress, and city of refuge, may 
we be enabled to bid defiance to our last enemy. Christ has 
fully overcome him, and by the victory of the Head, the living 
members cannot but be fully victorious." 

16. In the mean time, however, this return to such close 
study and incessant labour, not only impeded his restoration to 
health, but even increased the disorder, insomuch that, May 11, 
he mentions his " having had, for some days, the symptoms of an 
inward consumptive decay, — spitting blof>d, &c." On this oc- 
casion he writes thus to Mr. Charles Wesley : " What are you 
doing ia London? Are you ripening as fast for the grave as I 



. 4 Jew " 

THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, liJ'J 

am ? — How should we lay out every moment for God ! Thank 
God I look at our last enemy with great calmness. I hope* 
however, that the Lord will spare me to publish my end of the 
controversy, which is, A Double Dissertation upon the Doctrine? 
of Grace and Justice, This piece will, I flatter myself, recon- 
cile all the candid Calvinists and candid Arminians, and be a 
mean of pointing out the way in which peace and harmony 
might be restored to the Church. 

" I still look for an outpouring of the Spirit, inwardly 
and outwardly. Should I die before that great day, I shall 
have the consolation to see it from afar, like Abraham and 
the Baptist, and to point it out to those who shall live when 
God does this. 

" Thank God, I enjoy uninterrupted peace in the midst of my 
trials, which are, sometimes, not a few. Joy also I possess ; but 
I look for a joy of a superior nature. . The Lord bestow it 
mhm and how he pleaseth ! 1 thank God, I feel myself in a 
good degree dead to praise and dispraise : I hope, at least, thai 
it is so ; because I do not feel that the one lifts me up, or that 
the other dejects me. I want to see a Pentecostal Christian 
Church, and if it be not to be seen at this time upon earth, I. 
am willing to go and see this glorious wonder in heaven. How 
is it with you ? Are you ready to seize the crown in the name 
of the Redeemer reigning in your heart ? We run a race to- 
wards the grave. John is likely to outrun you, unless you have 
a swift foot. The Lord grant we may sink deeper into the Re- 
deemer's grave, and there live and die, and gently glide into 
our own. 

" Let us pray that God would renew our youth as that oi 
the eagle, that we may bear fruit, in our old age. The Lord 
strengthen you to the last ! I hope I shall see you again before 
my death ; if not, let us rejoice at the thought of meeting in 
heaven. Give my kind love to Mrs. Wesley, to my god-daugh- 
ter, and to her brothers, who all, I hope, remember their Crea> 
tor in the days of thet^f outh. Adieu. I am, &c. 

J. F,*" 



100 THE LIFE OP 

1 7. Although the circumstance has not been noticed by any 
of those who have published memoirs of Mr. Fletcher, yet it 
appears, from the date of several of his letters, that he spent a 
part, at least, of the summer of this year at Bristol, for the sake 
of trying the Hotwell water. 

A letter to Mr. Charles Perronet, in his own hand writing, 
now before me, and dated Bristol, July 12, 1776, makes this 
evident. " Having an opportunity," says he, " of writing a line 
to you by a friend whom I meet daily at the Hotwells, and who 
is about setting out for Canterbury, I gladly embrace the oppor- 
tunity of thanking you for your inquiries about my health. I am 
here drinking the waters : with what effect time will show. 
The Lord keeps me hanging by a thread : he weighs me in the 
balance for life and death. 1 trust him for the choice. He 
knows far better than I which is best, and I leave all to his unerr- 
ing wisdom." After noticing the various other means he used, 
besides drinking the waters, for the recovery of his health, he 
adds : " With respect to my mind, I am calm, and wait in sub- 
mission what the Lord will say concerning me. I wait to be 
baptised into all his fulness, and trust the word, the faithful word 
of his grace. Afflictions and shakes may be a ploughing neces- 
sary to make way for the heavenly seed, and to prepare me to 
bring forth some fruit in life or death. Whether it be in the 
former or in the latter, I hope I shall live and die the object of 
your love, and the subject of your prayers, as you are of the 
"cordial affection and good wishes of your devoted brother, and 
obliged companion in tribulation. 

J. F." 

In a letter to a friend in his own parish, also dated Bristol, and 
"written the day preceding, he gives the following account of the 
state of his body and soul. 

M With respect to my better part, I feel a degree of righteous- 
ness* peace, and joy, and wait for the establishment of his inter- 
nal kingdom in the Holy Ghost: and the hopes of my being 
rooted and Grounded in tho love that casts out every decree p€ 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



slavish fear, grow more lively every day. I thank God I am not 
afraid of any evil tidings, and my heart stands calm, believing in 
the Lord, and desiring him to do with me whatsoever he 
pleaseth. With respect to my body, I know not what to say ; 
but the physician says, < he hopes I shall do well and so I 
hope, and believe too, whether I recover or not. Health and 
sickness, life and death, are best when the Lord sends them ; and 
all things work together for good to those that love God* 

" I am forbid preaching ; but, blessed be God, I am not forbid 
by my heavenly Physician to pray, believe, and love. This is 
a sweet work, which heals, delights, and strengthens. Let us 
do it till we recover our spiritual strength ; and then, whether 
we shall be seen on earth or not will matter nothing. I hope 
you bear me on your heart, as I do you on mine." — Intending 
this letter to be read to other pious persons in the neighbour- 
hood, he adds, " My wish for you is, that you may be inward 
possessors of an inward kingdom of grace ; that you may stf 
hunger and thirst after righteousness as to be filled ; and that 
you may so call on your heavenly Father in secret, that he may- 
reward you openly with abundance of grace, which may evi- 
dence to all, that he honours you, because you honour him. 

" O ! be hearty in the cause of religion. I would have you 
either hot or cold ; for it is a fearful thing to be in danger of 
falling into the hands of the living God, and sharing the fate of 
the lukewarm. Be humbly zealous for your own salvation, and 
for God's glory ; nor forget to care for the salvation of eacti 
other. The case of wicked Cain is very common, and the prac* 
tice of many says, with that wretch, Am I my brother's keeper? 
O! pray God to keep you by his mighty power, through faith, 
to salvation. Keep yourselves in the love of God, if you are 
there ; and keep one another by example, reproof, exhortation* 
encouragement, social frayer, and a faithful use of all the meam 
of grace. Use yourselves to bow at Christ's feet ; as your Pro- 
phet, go to him continually for the holy anointing of his Spirit* 
who will be a teacher always near, always with you, and in you. 
If you have that imvctrd Instructor, you will suffer no material 



t$$ 1HE LIFE OF 

loss, when your outward teachers are removed. Make the 
most of dear Mr. Greaves, while you have him. While you 
have the light of God's word, believe in the light, that you 
may be the children of the light, fitted for the kingdom of 
eternal light, where I charge you to meet, with joy, your affec- 
tionate brother and minister. 

J. F » 

1 8. There can be no doubt, therefore, but that he was at 
Bristol, and did try the Hotwell water that summer. It should 
^eem, however, that he reaped little or no benefit from it, as 
we find him returned to Madeley about the middle of August, 
and signifying to his friend, Mr. Ireland, that " his breast was 
constantly very weak, but,''' adds he, " if it please God, it will in 
time recover strength. Mr. Greaves will take all the duty upon 
himself, and I shall continue to take the rest, the exercise, and 
the food which were recommended to me. The Lord grant 
me grace to repose myself on Christ, to exercise myself in 
charity, and to feed upon the bread of life, which God has 
^iven us in Jesus Christ. We all need this spiritual regimen ; 
may we be enabled to observe it as strictly as we do the bodily 
regimen of our earthly physicians !" 

19. His disorder increasing rather than abating, the kind 
friend, to whom the preceding lines were addressed, by the ad- 
vice of a physician, wisely recommended his going, as soon as 
convenient, to the South of France, and to Switzerland, as the 
most likely mean to restore him. Mr. Fletcher, however, 
would not then consent to go. " I have not, at present, the 
least idea," says he, August 24, " that I am called to quit my 
post here. I see no probability of being useful in Switzerland. 
My call is here, I am sure of it. If then I undertook the 
journey, it would be merely to accompany you. I dare not gra- 
tify friendship by taking such a step ; and so much less, as I 
have no faith in the prescriptions of your physician : and I 
think, that if health be better for us than sickness, we may enjoy 
it a> well here as in France or Italy. If sickness be best fur 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



193 



us, why should we shun it? Every thing is good when it 
comes from God. Nothing but a baptism of fire, and the 
most evident openings of Providence, can engage me in such 
a journey. If you believe that Providence calls you to make 
it, go : the bare idea, that the journey will do you good, may, by 
God's blessing, be of service to you. If I reject your obliging 
offer to procure me a substitute, accuse not my friendship to 
you, but attribute it to my fear of taking a false step, of quitting 
my post without command, and of engaging in a warfare to 
which the Lord does not call me. My refusal wounds my friend- 
ship for you ; but I hope it will not prevent your being persuaded 
that I am, with lively gratitude, altogether yours in Jesus 
Christ. Adieu. 

J. F.» 

It appears that in the beginning of September he thought 
his health better than it had been in August. He had not 
preached however; but had declined it, he says, rather from 
" a sense of duty to his friends, and the high thoughts he had 
of Mr. Greaves's labours, than to spare himself: for if I am 
not mistaken," adds he, " I am as able to do my work now, as 
I was a year ago." In this particular he certainly was mis- 
taken, and probably was led into the mistake by a person (a 
physician, I suppose) near Litchfield, whom he terms ft a pious 
gentleman, and esteemed eminent for his skill in disorders of 
the breast." This gentleman had assured him, " that he was 
in no immediate danger of a consumption of the lungs, but 
that his disorder was upon the nerves, in consequence of too 
much close thinking.' ' 

20. The advice of this gentleman seems to have been the 
more acceptable to Mr. Fletcher, because it did not prohibit 
him altogether from his favourite employments of writing and 
preaching. He also prescribed medicines which Mr. Fletcher 
judged " had been of service, in taking off his feverish heats, 
and stopping his spitting of blood." Having thus obtained 
the permission of his physician to labour a little, in the way he 
'bought most important to the glory of God, and the good 



194 



THE LIFE OF 



of mankind, he was ready enough to embrace it. "If God 
add one inch to my span," says he to Mr. Charles Wesley, 
Sept. 15, "I see my calling. I desire to know nothing but 
Christ, and him crucified, revealed in the Spirit. I long to feel 
the utmost power of the Spirit's dispensation ; and I will endea- 
vour to bear my testimony to the glory of that dispensation 
both with my pen and tongue. Some of our injudicious or inat- 
tentive friends will probably charge me with novelty for it ; but 
be that as it will, let us meekly stand for the truth as it is in 
Jesus, and trust the Lord for every thing. I thank God I feel 
myself so dead to popular applause, that I trust I should not be 
afraid to maintain a truth against all the world ; and yet I dread 
to dissent from any child of God, and am ready to condescend 
to every one. O what depths of humble love, and what heights 
of Gospel truth do I sometimes see ! I want to sink into the 
former, and rise into the latter. Help me by your example, 
letters, and prayers ; and let us, after our forty years' abode in 
the wilderness with Moses and John, break forth after our Joshua 
into the Canaan of pure love. I am, &c. 

J. F." 

"At our age," says he to another friend, " recovery can be 
but a short reprieve ; let us then give up ourselves daily 
to the Lord, as people who have no confidence in the flesh, and 
do not trust to to-morrow. — I find my weakness, unprofitable- 
ness, and wretchedness, daily more and more ; and the more I 
find them, the more help I have to sink into self-abhorrence. 
Nor do I despair to sink one day so in it, as to die to self, and 
revive in my God. Farewell. 

J. F." 

21. He speaks in a similar manner to me in a letter dated a 
tew days after, when he was still at Madeley : 

" My very dear Brother, 
"Your kind letter has followed me from Bristol here, where 
I have been for some weeks. My health is better than it was 
in August, blessed be God ! but it is far from being established. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



195 



Close thinking and writing had brought upon me a slow fever, 
with a cough, and spitting of blood, which a physician took for 
symptoms of a consumption of the lungs ; whereas they were 
only symptoms of a consumption of the nerves and solids. He put 
me accordingly upon the lowest diet, and had me blooded four 
times, which made much against me. I am, however, much re- 
covered since I have begun to eat meat again. My cough and 
spitting of blood have left me ; but want of sleep, and a slow 
fever, keep me still very low. If the Lord please, he can in a 
moment restore my strength : but he needs not a worm, a fly. 
I thank him for having kept me perfectly resigned to his will, 
and calm in the awful scene which I have passed through. I 
enjoy the kingdom in weakness, and still look for its coming 
with power. 

" I design to conclude my last controversial piece as I shall be 
able, and hope it will give my friends some satisfaction ; be- 
cause it will show the cause of all our doctrinal errors, and 
place the doctrine of election and reprobation upon its proper 
basis. I finish also my Essay on the Dispensation of the Spirit, 
which is the thing I want most to see your thoughts upon. Pray 
for light and power, truth and love, and impart to me a share of 
your experiences to quicken my dulness of apprehension and 
of feeling. If God spare me a little, it will be to bear my tes- 
timony to the doctrine of perfect, spiritual Christianity. May 
we be personal witnesses of this glorious dispensation, and be 
so inflamed with love as to kindle all around us ; so rilled with 
power, that rivers may flow from us, and gladden the spots of 
the vineyard where our lot is cast. Give my kind love and 
thanks to all inquiring friends. If I live over the winter, I shall, 
should Providence open the way, visit you all,* and assure you 
that I am, in Christ, your affectionate brother and servant, 

J. F." 

22. The former of the tracts, mentioned in the above letter, 
which he terms " his last controversial piece," was that entitled, 
" The Reconciliation, or an easy method to unite the professing 

* I was then at Newcastle-upon-Tyue. 



196 



THE LIFE OF 



people of God, by placing the doctrines of Grace and Justice in 
such a light as to make the candid Arminians Bible Calvinists. 
and the candid Calvinists Bible Arminians." He had also 
termed it, in an advertisement previously published, " A Plan 
of Reconciliation between the Defenders of the Doctrines of 
partial Grace, commonly called Calvinists, and the Defenders of 
the Doctrines of impartial Justice, commonly called Arminians." 
This tract, although comprehending 140 pages, and although he 
was in a state of increasing weakness, and obliged, as we shall 
soon see, to travel to preserve his life, he was enabled to com- 
plete by the beginning of the next spring, when he dedicated it 
to his friend Mr. Ireland in the following words : 

" Dear Sir, 

" To whom could a Plan of Reconciliation between the Cal- 
vinists and Arminians be more properly dedicated than to a son 
of peace, whose heart, hand, and house, are open to Calvinists, 
Arminians, and Neuters ? You kindly received the divines 
who contend for the doctrines of grace ; and I want words 
to describe the Christian courtesy which you show to me, 
and other ministers, who make a stand for the doctrines of 
justice. To you I am indebted for the honour of a friendly 
interview with the author of the Circular Letter, (Mr. Shirley,) 
which I thought myself obliged to oppose. — And as you suc- 
ceeded in that labour of love, it is natural for me to hope, that 
by your influence, and by the patronage of such candid, gene- 
rous peace-makers, as the gentleman* to whom I have often 
compared you, these reconciling sheets will be perused by some 
with more attention than if they had no name prefixed to them 
but that of your most obliged, affectionate friend and servant, 

J. F." 

23. In this dedication, and in the title of the work to which 
it is prefixed, Mr. Fletcher refers to a small tract, before- 

* John Thoruton, Esq. " a great friend," says he, " to a catholic Gospel. 
If clergymen are backward to promote peace, the God of peace may provoke 
them to jealousy, by raisiDg from among the laity such instruments of recon- 
ciliation, as will be a terror to bijotry, and an example of universal love." 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



197 



mentioned, which had preceded it in the publication, entitled, 
" The Doctrines of Grace and Justice equally essential to the 
pure Gospel : with some Remarks on the mischievous Divisions 
caused among Christians by parting those Doctrines." This 
piece being intended as an Introduction to the Reconciliation, 
since the first edition, has been printed and sold in one pamphlet 
with it, and both taken together must certainly be considered, by 
every unprejudiced and enlightened person, as peculiarly cal- 
culated to answer the end proposed. I doubt not, indeed, but 
they did answer that end, with regard to many, on both sides of 
the question. Some, however, and indeed not a few, of Mr. 
Fletcher's opponents, were not thus to be won. This is evident 
from the following clauses of a letter to the same disinterested 
and truly catholic friend, written at this time. 

" I thank you for your kind letter, and am glad you will con- 
tinue to oppose bigotry, though I would not have you bring a 
whole house about your ears, for the sake of so_ insignificant a 
creature as I am. Many, who espouse the sentiments of my 
opponents, condemn me without having heard me out; andj 
upon the dreadful charges which they hear brought against me, 
they are not much to blame ; for what good man will think well 
of a 4 blasphemer, and an enemy to the Gospel V I hope, for 
my part, to do what shall be in my power to remove prejudices, 
and trust to gain some resignation and patience by what I shall 
not be able to remove. God is my witness that I honour and 
love them, though I will never part with my liberty of exposing 
error, wherever I shall detect it. Why might I not endeavour 
to take off a spot from a friend's sleeve, without running the 
risk of losing his friendship, and incurring his ill will ?" 

24. In the meantime, while some of his bigoted opponents, 
and their prejudiced, narrow-minded friends, who neither knew 
him nor his principles, were viewing him as a " blasphemer, and 
an enemy to the Gospel the pious part of his parishioners, 
who had long observed his spirit and conduct, and knew him 
well, were ready almost to rank him with prophets and apostles, 
and certainly judged him one of the holiest and best of men. 
" A fortnight ago," says he to his friend, in the letter last quoted, 



198 



THE LIFE OF 



" I paid a visit to West Bromwich : I ran away from the kind* 
ness of my parishioners, who oppressed me with tokens of their 
love. To me there is nothing so extremely trying as excessive 
kindness. I am of the king's mind, when the people showed 
their love to him on his journey to Portsmouth : i 1 can bear,' he 
said, £ the hissings of a London mob, but these shouts are too 
much for me.' You, my dear friend, Mrs. Ireland, Mrs. Nor- 
man, and all your family, have put me to that severe trial, to 
which all trials caused by the hard words that have been spoken 
of me, are nothing. I return you all my warmest thanks, 
and pray that, excess excepted, you may all, in the day of 
your weakness, meet with as kind nurses and benefactors as 
you have proved to me." 

25. The state of his health, however, although he had so 
lately judged himself much better, soon began to decline, and 
his disorder to increase to such an alarming degree, that the 
possibility of his recovery, without a miracle, was universally 
doubted. But far was he, while in these circumstances, from 
being daunted or cast down at the apparent approach of the 
king of terrors. Rather, " he looked forward, * with increasing 
desire, to the happy moment when he should exchange the 
weapons of war for the crown of glory. Not that he was averse 
to the duties of his vocation, or wearied with the length of his 
services ; but being exceedingly athirst for God, as the hart panteth 
after the zoater brooks, so panted his soul after the more imme- 
diate presence of God, Though he was favoured with the en- 
joyment of many inestimable blessings by the way, yet he looked 
with unutterable longings to the end of his course ; knowing 
that to be at home in the body, is to be absent from the Lord. 
Though he experienced inexpressible delight in the society of 
such as worshipped in the outer courts of the Lord's house; 
still he saw it infinitely more desirable to associate with the 
spirits of just men made perfect, in the inner places of his invisi- 
ble temple. And though he was, at times, permitted a momen- 
tary glimpse of heavenly mysteries, yet he earnestly desired 



* Gilpin's Notes. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



199 



that, mortality being swallowed up of life, he might behold with 
open face the glory of the Lord" 

26. This desire, which accompanied him through every 
state, was expressed with a more than ordinary degree of fer- 
vour in seasons of weakness and disease. In these solemn in- 
tervals, when he appeared to be speedily advancing towards the 
confines of eternity, he rejoiced as a weary traveller within 
sight of his home. His immortal prospects became more en- 
larged and transporting, his conversation was correspondent 
to the grandeur of his views, and his whole appearance was 
that of a man already clothed in the wedding garment, and 
hastening to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb* 
There was something in his deportment, upon these awful oc- 
casions, which reminded me of the transfiguration of his Master 
upon Mount Tabor : — While Moses and Elias were conversing 
with the blessed Jesus on his approaching decease, the fashion 
of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and 
glistering : so, while the harbingers of death were apparently 
completing their work on the emaciated frame of this holy 
man, his silent meditations have been frequently accompanied 
with so much visible delight, such an extatic glow has diffused 
itself over his whole countenance, and his eye has been directed 
upwards with a look of such inexpressible sweetness, that one 
would almost have supposed him, at such seasons, conversing 
with angelical spirits on his approaching dissolution, and the 
glory that should follow. 

27. But, notwithstanding the intimate views he enjoyed of a 
happy immortality, and the intense desire he expressed to be 
with Christ ; when he considered the importance of his charge, 
and the probability of his being rendered further serviceable to 
the church, charity towards his companions in tribulation gave 
birth to a new desire, and kept him in a state of sweet suspense 
between the labours of grace and the rewards of glory. It was 
in such a state that he took an affecting leave of his people 
at Madeley, viz. in the autumn of this year, being about to spend 
a few weeks in travelling with Mr. Wesley. " He delivered," 



200 



THE LIFE 01 



says Mr. Gilpin, " a discourse upon that occasion from those 
pertinent words of St. Paul : What I shall choose, I wot not. For 
I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be 
with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless, to abide in the flesh 
is more needful for you. In the course of this sermon he ad- 
verted, in the most pathetic terms, to the painful situation m 
which he then presented himself to his hearers ; so debilitated 
by disease, that he was unable any longer to discharge among 
them the public duties of his ministerial station. From his pre- 
sent weakness, he looked back to his past labours, making many 
affecting reflections upon his own unworthiness, the indubitable 
testimonies he had received of his people's unfeigned affection, 
and the unusual success of his ministry among them. Here he 
enlarged upon the two leading desires of his soul. On the one 
hand, he made a solemn declaration of the earnest longing with 
which he desired to be absent from the body, that he might 
be present with the Lord: and on the other, he expressed a 
more than parental attachment, which excited in him a wish that 
he might still be permitted to labour for their furtherance and 
establishment in the faith of the Gospel. But what to choose 
he knew not : nor was his present suspense attended with any 
degree of anxiety, since he foresaw unquestionable blessings 
awaiting him on either hand. He saw the balance poised by 
unerring wisdom, and was cheerfully content to wait the issue, 
with one uninterrupted request, — that, whether he lived, he 
might live unto the Lord, or whether he died, he might die unto 
the Lord ; that, whether living or dying, he might be the Lordh. 

" Such was the sweet suspense which this man of God expe- 
rienced between a state of labour and a state of rest, which con- 
tinued for more than two years, and which was at last happily 
determined in favour of his people, who were permitted the 
enjoyment of his ministry for a long season after this period, 
rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord, and abundantly profiting 
by the labours of his invigorated servant." 

28. Where Mr. Fletcher joined Mr. Wesley, I am not cci 
tain. But, Nov. 21, 1776, ha wrote to me from Loestoff as 
follows : 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



201 



" My dear Friend, 
« Mr. Wesley having invited me to travel with him, to see if 
change of air and motion will be a mean of restoring me to a 
share of my former health, I have accompanied him through 
Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Norfolk ; and I hope I am 
rather better than worse. I find it good to be with this extraor- 
dinary servant of God. I think his diligence and wisdom are 
matchless. It is a good school for me, only I am too old a 
scholar to make a proficiency. However, let us live to God to- 
day, and trust him for to-morrow : so that whether we are laid 
up in a sick bed, or a damp grave, or whether we are yet able to 
act, we may be able to say, 

" God is the sea of love, 

Where all my pleasures roll, 
The circle where my passions move, 
And centre of my soul." 

I find the nearer I am to you, the more glad should I be to be 
strengthened by the mutual faith of you and me. The bearer 
hopes to be soon at Newcastle, and I send this scrawl by him to 
assure you of my repentance towards God, my faith in the Lord 
Jesus Christ, my lively expectation of the kingdom in the Holy 
Ghost, and my brotherly love toward you. The Lord fill you 
with every grace and gift which can complete the Christian and 
the evangelist, and what I ask for you, I trust you will not forget, 
to ask for your affectionate friend and brother, 

J. F." 

29. Soon after this, according to Mr. Wesley's account, they 
returned to London, when Mr. Fletcher appeared to be con- 
siderably better. " And I verily believe," says Mr. Wesley. 
" if he had travelled with me, partly in the chaise, and partly on 
horseback, only a few months longer, he would have quite 
recovered his health. But this, those about him would not per- 
mit : sO being detained in (or near) London, by his kind, but in- 
judicious friends, while I pursued my journeys, his spitting of 
blood, with all the other symptoms, returned, and rapidly in- 



THE LIFE OF 



creased, till the physicians pronounced him to be far advanced 
in a true pulmonary consumption.*' 

It being judged quite improper for him to remain in London, 
on Dec. 16, 1776, he retired to the house of his friends, Charles 
and Mary Greenwood (both now with God.) to Stoke-Newing- 
ton. Here he had the advice of the most eminent physicians 
that London could afford. He was also in a good air, and had 
every convenience and every help which art could bestow. One 
of the family, of whom Mr. Wesley inquired concerning tins 
part of his life, gave him the following information. 

.30. " Agreeably to your desire, I endeavour to recollect 
some particulars of Mr. Fletcher, during his abode at Newing- 
ton. 

a When he first came, he was, by Dr. Fothergill's advice, 
under the strictest observance of two tilings, rest and silence. 
These, together with a milk diet, were supposed to be die only 
probable means of his recovery. In consequence of these di- 
rections he spoke exceeding little. If ever he spoke more 
than usual, it did not fail to increase his spitting of blood ; of 
which, indeed, he was seldom quite clear, although it was not 
violent. Therefore a great part of his time was spent in being 
read to. But it was not possible to restrain him altogether from 
speaking. ^ The fire which continually burned in his heart, 
many waters could not quench. It often burst out unawares. 
And then how did we wonder (like those who formerly heard 
his Lord,) at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth! 
He could not have sustained life, without sometimes giving vent 
to his heart. No penance could have appeared so severe a 
cross to him. as to be debarred from speaking, of, or to God. 
His natural vivacity, with his intense love of Jesus, continually 
impelled him to speak. But on being reminded of his rule, with 
a cheerful smile, he was all submission ; consenting by signs onU 
to stir up those about him to pray and praise! 

31. " Whoever has read Mr. Fletcher's Last Check to Anti- 
nomianism, and has 'had the privilege of observing his spirit and 
conduct, will not scruple to say,' that he was a living comment 
on his own account of ChnstiaB Perfection. It is an alarming 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



203 



word which our Lord speaks to the angel of the church at Sardis, 
I have not found thy works perfect before God. But as far as man 
is able to judge, from the whole tenor of his behaviour, he 
did possess perfect humility, perfect resignation, and perfect 
love. Suitable to this was the testimony concerning him 
which was given in Lady Huntingdon's Chapel at Bristol, even 
by Mr. V. a gentleman strongly attached to those opinions 
which Mr. Fletcher thought it his duty to oppose. ; I have 
enjoyed the privilege of being several weeks under the same 
roof with dear Mr. Fletcher. And during that time I have 
been greatly edified by his perfect resignation to the will of 
God, and by being a witness to his exemplary conduct and un- 
common grace.' 

32. '-When he was able to converse, his favourite subject 
was, The promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Ghost, inclu- 
ding that rich peculiar blessing, of union with the Father and 
the Son. mentioned in that prayer of our Lord which is 
recorded in the seventeenth chapter of St. John. Many were 
the sparks of living fire which occasionally darted forth on this 
beloved theme. ; We must not be content,' said he, 1 to be only 
cleansed from sin; we must be rilled with the Spirit.' One 
asking him, What was to be experienced in the full accomplish- 
ment of the promise ? ' 0,' said he, ; what shall I say ! All the 
•sweetness of the drawings of the Father ; all the love of the 
Son; all the rich effusions of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost ; 
more than ever can be expressed, are comprehended here ! To 
attain it, the Spirit maketh intercession in the soul, like a God 
wrestling with a God !' 

33. ; ' It was in these favoured moments of converse that we 
found, in a particular manner, the reward which is annexed to 
the receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet. And in some 
of these he occasionally mentioned several circumstances, which 
(as none knew them but himself) would otherwise have been 
buried in oblivion. 

One of those remarkable passages was. • In the beginning,' 
said he, ( of my spiritual course, I heard the voice of God, in an 
inexpressibly awful sound, go through my soul in those words, 



204 



THE LIFE OF 



If any man mil be my disciple, let him deny himself. He men- 
tioned another peculiar manifestation of a later date, in which, 
said he, ' I was favoured, like Moses, with a supernatural disco- 
very of the glory of God in an ineffable converse with him ; so 
that whether I was then in the body or out of the body I cannot 
tell.' 

34. " On another occasion, he said, ' About the time of my 
entering into the ministry, I one evening wandered into a wood, 
musing on the importance of the office I was going to under- 
take. I then began to pour out my soul in prayer ; when such 
a feeling sense of the justice of God fell upon me, and such a 
discovery of his displeasure at sin, as absorbed all my powers, 
and filled my soul with an agony of prayer for poor lost sinners. 
I continued therein till the dawn of day ; and I considered this 
as designed of God, to impress upon me more deeply the mean- 
ing of those solemn words, Tlierefore knowing the terrors of the 
Lord, we persuade men." 1 " 

35. The blessed state of his soul continually manifested itself 
by its overflowing good will to all that came in his way. And 
yet his spirit was so deeply impressed with those words, Not as 
though I had already attained, that the vehemence of his desire 
for a fuller manifestation of God, seemed sometimes to border 
upon unhappiness. But his ardent soul only felt the full impres- 
sion of those words of the apostle, Forgetting the things that 
are behind, and reaching forth to those that are before, I press 
toxcard the mark, for the prize of my high calling of God in 
Christ Jesus. 

36. " One end of his retiring to Newington was, that he 
might hide himself from company. But this design was in 
nowise answered ; for company came from every side. He was 
continually visited by high and low, and by persons of various 
denominations : one of whom being asked, when he went away, 
what he thought of Mr. Fletcher, said, ' I went to see a man 
that had one foot in the grave ; but I found a man that had 
one foot in heaven.' Among them that now visited him were 
several of his beloved and honoured opponents ; to whom he 
confirmed his love (however roughly they had treated him) by 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



205 



'the most respectful and affectionate behaviour. But he did not 
give up any part of the truth for which he had publicly con- 
tended : although some (from whom one would have expected 
better things) did not scruple to affirm the contrary. Those of 
his particular friends who visited him here, will not easily forget 
how he exhausted his whole soul in effusions of thankfulness ; 
Mrs. Cartwright and Cavendish in particular, with his faithful and 
affectionate friend, Mr. Ireland, will remember their interviews 
with him. And those of the family were almost oppressed by 
the outpourings of his love and gratitude, whenever they showed 
their love in the most inconsiderable instance. Yea, so thankful, 
in proportion, would he be to even the meanest servant. 

37. " It was not without some difficulty that Mr. Ireland at 
length prevailed upon him to sit for his picture. While the 
limner was drawing the outlines of it, he was exhorting both 
him and all that were in the room, not only to get the outlines 
drawn, but the colourings also, of the image of Jesus on their 
hearts. He had a very remarkable facility in making allusions 
of this kind ; in raising spiritual observations from every acci- 
dental circumstance ; in turning men's employments, pleasures, 
and pains, into means of edification ; this he did, in order to 
engage the attention of the thoughtless, the more deeply to fix 
the attention of the thoughtful, and to prevent the trifling away 
of time, in unprofitable conversation. And such little incidents 
as used to pass away unnoticed, by almost any other person, 
acquired from Mr. Fletcher's fine imagination a kind of grace 
and dignity. To give an instance. Being ordered to be let 
blood, while his blood was running into the cup, he took occa- 
sion to expatiate On the precious blood-shedding of the Lamb 
of God. And even when he did not speak at all, the seraphic, 
spirit which beamed from his languid face, during those months 
of pain and weakness, was, 

" A lecture silent, yet of sovereign use." 

[But it is necessary to be observed here, says Mr. Wesley, 
that this facility of raising useful observations from the most 
trifling incidents, was one of those peculiarities in him which 



206 



THE LIFE OP 



cannot be proposed to our imitation. In him it partly resulted 
from nature, and was partly a supernatural gift. But what was 
becoming and graceful in Mr. Fletcher, would be disgustful 
almost in any other.] 

38. But Mr. Fletcher was not only eminently useful by his 
conversation to the members of the kind family at Newington, 
where he resided these few weeks, and to several individuals, 
whether ministers or others, who accasionally visited it, but the 
Christian letters which his love to his flock at Madeley, and to 
his friends in different places, constrained him to write, were 
then, and have been since, a peculiar blessing to many. " Which 
his love constrained him to write," 1 say, because, notwithstand- 
ing the charge given him by his physician, and the advice and 
entreaties of those about him, he could not be restrained from 
this exercise of zeal and brotherly kindness. " They forbid my 
writing," says he to Mr. Ireland, February 24, " But I will 
write to the last. Blessed be God who giveth us the victory over 
death and its pain, by Jesus Christ." An extract from one of 
these letters, written about a fortnight after his going to Newing- 
ton, and addressed to his parishioners at Madeley, Mr. Wesley 
has given us in his shor: account of Mr. Fletcher's Life. I shall 
here insert the same letter rather more at large. 

" My dear Parishioners, 
" I hoped to have spent the Christmas holidays with you, and 
to have ministered to you in holy things ; but the weakness of 
my body confining me here, I humbly submit to the divine dis- 
pensation, and ease the trouble of my absence, by being present 
with you in spirit, and by reflecting on the pleasure I have felt 
in years past, while singing with you, Unto us a child is born, 
unto us a son is given, &c. This truth is as important now as it 
was then, and as worthy to be thankfully received at Newington 
as at Madeley. Let us then receive it with all readiness, and 
it will unite us : we shall meet in Christ, the centre of lasting 
union, the source of true life, the spring of pure righteousness 
and joy ; and our hearts shall be full of the song of angels, Glory 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



207 



be to God on high ! Peace, on earth ! Good will towards each 
other, and all mankind! 

" In order to this, may the eye of your understanding be more 
and more opened to see your need of a Redeemer ; and to 
behold the suitableness, freeness, and fulness of the redemption, 
which was wrought out by the Son of God, and which is applied 
by the Spirit, through faith. The wish which glows in my soul 
is so ardent and powerful, that it brings me down on my knees, 
while I write, and, in that supplicating posture, I entreat you all 
to consider and improve the day of your visitation, and to pre- 
pare, in good earnest, to meet, with joy, your God, and your un- 
worthy pastor, in another world. Weak as I was when I left 
Madeley, I hear that several, who were then young, healthy, and 
strong, have got the start of me ; and that some have been hur- 
ried into eternity without being indulged with a moment's warn- 
ing. — May the awful accident strike a deeper consideration into 
all our souls. May the sound of their bodies dashed to pieces 
at the bottom of a pit, rouse us to a speedy conversion, that 
we may never fall into the bottomless pit, and that iniquity and r 
delays may not be our eternal ruin. Tottering as I stand on.the 
brink of the grave, some of you, who seem far from it, may 
drop into it before me ; for what has happened may happen still. 

" Let us, then, all awake out of sleep ; and let us all prepare 
for our approaching change, and give ourselves no rest, till we 
have got Gospel ground to hope that our great change will be 
a happy one. In order to this, I beseech you, by all the minis- 
terial and providential calls you have had for these seventeen 
years, harden not your hearts. Let the long-suffering of God 
towards us, who survived the hundreds I have buried, lead us all 
to repentance. Dismiss your sins, and embrace Jesus Christ, 
who wept for you in the manger, bled for you in Gethsemane, 
hung for you on the cross, and now pleads for you on his media- 
torial throne. By all that is near and dear to you, as men and 
as Christians, meet me not, on the great day, in your sins and in 
your blood, enemies to Christ by unbelief, and to God by wicked 
works. Meet me in the garment of repentance, in the robe of 
Christ's merits, and in the white linen, (the purity of heart and 



208 THE life or 

life) which is the holiness of the godly ; — that holiness , without 
which no man shall see God, Let the time past suffice, in which 
some of you have lived in sin. By repentance put off the old 
man, and his works ; by faith put on the Lord Jesus and his 
righteousness. Let all wickedness be gone, — for ever gone, 
with the old year ; and with the new one begin a new life, a life 
of renewed devotion to God, and of increasing love to our 
neighbour. 

" The sum of all I have preached to you is contained in four 
propositions, First, Heartily repent of your sins, original and 
actual. Secondly, Believe the Gospel of Christ in sincerity and 
truth. Thirdly, In the power which true faith gives (for all 
things commanded are possible to him that believeth,) run with 
humble confidence the way of God's commandments before God 
and men. Fourthly, By continuing to take up your cross, and 
to receive the pure milk of God's word, grow in grace, and in 
the knowledge of Jesus Christ. So shall you grow in peace 
and joy all the days of your life ; and when rolling years shall 
be lost in eternity, you will for ever grow in bliss and heavenly 
glory. O what bliss ! What glory ! The Lord shall be our 
sun and our crown ; and we shall be jewels in each other's 
crown ; I in yours, and you in mine. For ever we shall be 
with the Lord, and with one another. We shall all live in 
God's heavenly church, the heaven of heavens. All our days 
will be a Sabbath, and our Sabbath eternity. No bar of busi- 
ness or sickness, no distance of time nor place, no gulf of 
death or the grave, shall part us more. We shall meet in the 
bosom of Abraham, who met Christ in the bosom of divine 
love. O what a meeting ! And shall some of us meet there 
this very year which we are just entering upon ? What a 
year ! On that blessed year, if we are of the number of those 
who die in the Lord, our souls shall burst the womb of this 
corruptible flesh ; we shall be born into the other world ; we 
shall behold the Sun of Righteousness without a cloud, and for 
ever bask in the beams of his glory. Is not this prospect glori- 
ous enough to make us bid defiance to sin and the grave ; and 
to join the cry of the Spirit and the Bride, Come, Lord J$sus\ 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



209 



come quickly, though it should be in the black chariot of 
death ? 

" Should God bid me to stay on earth a little longer, to serve 
you in the Gospel of his Son ; should he renew my strength, 
(for no word is impossible with him) to do among you the work 
of a pastor, I hope I shall, by God's grace, prove a more 
humble, zealous, and diligent minister, than I have hitherto 
been. Some of you have supposed that I made more ado 
about eternity and your precious souls than they were worth ; 
but how great was your mistake ! Alas ! it is my grief and 
shame that I have not been, both in public and private, a thou- 
sand times more earnest and importunate with you about your 
spiritual concerns. Pardon me, my dear friends, pardon me, 
my ignorances and negligences in this respect. And as I most 
humbly ask your forgiveness, so I most heartily forgive any of 
you, who may, at any time, have made no account of my little 
labours. I only entreat such now to evidence a better mind, 
by paying a double attention to the loud warnings of Provi- 
dence, and to the pathetic discourses of the faithful minister 
who now supplies my place. And may God, for Christ's sake, 
forgive us all, as we forgive one another ! 

" The more nearly I consider death and the grave, judg- 
ment and eternity, the more, blessed be God, I feel that I have 
preached to you the truth, and that the truth is solid as the 
Rock of Ages. Glory be to his divine grace, I can say, in 
some degree, 4 Here is firm footing.'' Follow me, and the sor- 
rows of death, instead of encompassing you around, will keep 
at an awful distance, and, with David, we shall follow our great 
Shepherd, even through the dreary valley, without fearing or 
feeling any evil. 

" Although I hope to see much more of the goodness of the 
Lord in the land of the living than I do see 5 yet, blessed be 
the divine mercy, I see enough to keep my mind at all times 
unruffled, and to make me willing calmly to resign my soul 
into the hands of my faithful Creator, my loving Redeemer, 
and my sanctifying Comforter, this moment, or the next, if he 
call for it. I desire your public thanks for all the favours he 

27 



210 



THE LIFE OF 



showcth me continually, with respect to botli my 60ul and 
body. Help me to be thankful ; for it is a pleasant thing to be 
thankful. May our thankfulness crown the new year, as God's 
patience and goodness have crowned all our life. Permit 
me to bespeak an interest in your prayers also. Ask that my 
faith may be willing to receive all that God's grace is willing to 
bestow. Ask that I may meekly suffer, and zealously do all the 
will of God, in my present circumstances ; and that, living or 
dying, I may say, with the witness of God's Spirit, For me to 
live is Christ, and to die is gain* 

" If God call me soon from earth, I beg he may, in his good 
providence, appoint a more faithful shepherd over you. You 
need not fear that he will not : you see, that for these many 
months, you have not only had no famine of the word, but the 
richest plenty ; and what God has done, for months, he can do 
for years : yea, for all the years of your life. Only pray ; Ask. 
and you shall receive. Meet at the throne of grace, and yon 
shall meet at the throne of glory your affectionate, obliged, and 
unworthy minister. 

J. F. 77 

39. In another letter, written a fortnight after to the same- 
people, he manifests still further his own deep humility, and his 
fervent love to them, as the flock over which the Holy Ghost 
had made him overseer. I shall here insert a short extract from 
this also. Addressing them as his " dear companions in tribu- 
lation," he proceeds. " All the children of God I love : my 
delight is in them that excel in strength, and my tenderest com- 
passions move towards those that exceed in weakness. But of 
all the children of God, none have so great a right to my peculiar 
iove as you. Your stated or occasional attendance on my poor 
ministry, and the countless thousands of steps you have taken to 
hear the word of our common Lord from my despised pulpit, as 
well as the bonds of neighbourhood, and the many happy hours I 
have spent before the throne of grace with you, endear you pe- 
culiarly to me. 

" With tears of grateful joy I recollect the awful moment? 



i 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



211 



when "we have, in the strength of our dear Redeemer, bound 
ourselves to stand to our baptismal vow : to renounce all sin, to 
believe all the articles of the Christian faith, and keep God's 
commandments to the end of our life ; especially the new com- 
mandment, which enjoins us to love one another, as Christ has 
loved us. O! my dear brethren, let this repeated vow, so 
reasonable, so just, and so comfortable, appear to us worthy of 
our greatest regard. For my own part, asking pardon of God, 
and you all, for not having exulted more in the privilege of 
keeping that vow every day better, and of loving you every 
hour more tenderly, I am not at all discouraged; but deter- 
mine, with new courage and delight, to love my neighbour as 
myself; and to love our Covenant God, Father, Son, and Holy 
Ghost, with all my mind, heart, and strength : — with all the 
powers of my understanding, will, and affections. — This reso- 
lution is bold, but it is evangelical ; being equally founded on 
the precept and promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose cleans- 
ing blood can atone for all our past unfaithfulness, and whose 
almighty Spirit can enable us to perform all Gospel obedience 
for the time to come. 

" I find much comfort in my weak state of health, from my 
relation to my Covenant God. O the comfort of cleaving to 
Christ by faith, and of finding that Christ is our all ! In that 
centre of life let us all meet, and death itself will not separate 
us ; for Christ, our life, is the resurrection ; and Christ, our com- 
mon resurrection, will bring us back from the grave, to worship 
him altogether, where absence and sickness shall interrupt and 
separate us no more. 

;c I sometimes feel a desire of being buried where you are 
buried, and having my bones lie in a common earthen bed with 
yours ; but I soon resign that wish, and leaving that particular to 
Providence, I exult in thinking, that whatever distance there 
may be between our graves, we can now bury our sins, cares, 
doubts, and fears, in the one grave of our divine Saviour ; and 
that we may rejoice, each of us in our measure, that neither life 
nor death, neither things present nor things to come, shall ever 
be able, (while we hang on the Crucified, as he hung on the 



212 



THE LIFE OF 



cross,) to separate us from Christ our head, nor from the love of 
each other his members. 

" Love, then, one another, my dear brethren, I entreat you, 
and if I, your poor unworthy shepherd, am smitten, be not 
scattered ; but rather be more closely gathered into Christ, and 
keep near each other in faith and love, till you all receive our 
second Comforter and Advocate in the glory of his fulness. This 
indwelling of the Comforter perfects the mystery of sanctifica- 
tion in the believer's soul. This is the highest blessing of the 
Christian covenant on earth. Rejoicing in God our Creator, in 
God our Redeemer, let us look for the full comfort of God our 
Sanctifier. 

" My paper fails, but not my love. It embraces you all in the 
bowels of Jesus Christ ; to whose love 1 earnestly recommend 
you; earnestly desiring you would recommend to his faithful 
mercy your affectionate friend and brother, your unworthy pas- 
tor and fellow-helper in the faith, 

J. F." 

40. He wrote letters also to many private friends in different 
parts. Indeed hardly a day passed in which he did not write to 
one or other. But as extracts from most of these have been 
published, I shall spare myself and the reader the trouble of re- 
ferring to many of them here. Add to this, that whenever he 
found any ability for it, his thoughts and pen were occupied in 
contributing more or less to what he continued to have much at 
heart, the completing of his forementioned " Plan of Recon- 
ciliation." Of this, Jan. 19, he speaks as follows to the Rev* 
Vincent Perronet. 

I have of late thought much upon a method of reconciling 
the Calvinists and Arminians. I have seen some Calvinian 
ministers who seem inclined to a plan of pacification. I wish I 
had strength enough to draw the sketch of it for your improve- 
ment. I think the thing is by no means impracticable, if we 
would but look one another in the face, and fall together at the 
feet of Him. who makes men to be of one mind in a house, and 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



made once all believers to be of one soul in the church. Let 
us pray, hope, wa<t, and be ready to cast one mite of endeavour 
towards the blessing of a reconciliation ; in which none could be 
more glad to second you than, honoured and dear Sir, your affec- 
tionate, obliged son in the GospeL 

J. 

41. By these exertions of body and mind, reading, thinking, 
writing, and conversing, he undoubtedly greatly impeded his 
recovery : so that, although he was in a good air, had good 
accommodations, and a variety of helps joined to the kindness 
of his friends, all which he mentions in the letter last quoted, 
with gratitude, he made little or no progress towards the reco- 
very of his health while at Newington. A few days before, he 
says to a friend, " Venturing to ride out in the frost, the air was 
too sharp for my weak lungs, and opened my wound, which has 
thrown me back again." On the 29th he observes, " Provi- 
dence sent me, last Sunday, Dr. Turner, who, under God, 
saved my life twenty-three years ago in a dangerous illness ; and 
I am inclined to try what his method will do. He orders me 
asses' milk, chicken, &c. forbids me riding, and recommends the 
greatest quietness. He prohibits the use of Bristol water ; ad- 
vises some waters of a purgative nature, and tries to promote 
expectoration by a method that so far answers, though I spit by 
it more blood than before. It will be in order to cure one way 
or other. 

" With respect to my soul, I find it good to be in the balance, 
awfully weighed every day for life or death. I thank God the 
latter has lost its sting, and endears to me the Prince of Life. 
But O ! I want Christ, my resurrection, to be a thousand times 
more dear to me ; and doubt not he will be so when I am filled 
with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of 
him. Let us wait for that glory, praising God for all we have 
received, and do daily receive ; and trusting him for all we have 
not yet received. Let our faith do justice to his veracity, our 
hope to his goodness, and our love to all his perfections. It is 
good to trust in the Lord, and his saints like well to hope in 



THE LIJE OF 



him. I am provided here with every necessary and convenient 
blessing for my state. The great have even done me the honour 

of calling.— Mr. Shirley, Mr. R d Hill, Mr. Peckwell, &c. 

I exhort them to promote peace in the church, which they take 
kindly. I hope God will incline us all to peace, living and 
dying. Lady Huntingdon has written ine a kind letter also. 

for universal, lasting kindness ! This world to me is now be- 
come a world of love. May it be so to my dear friend also. My 
kindest love and thanks wait on yourself, Mrs. Ireland, and all 
your dear family. 

J. F." 

The above was addressed to Mr. Ireland, and three weeks 
after, he says to one of his parishioners, " My dear friend Mr. 
Ireland brought me, last week, Sir John Elliott, who is esteemed 
the greatest physician in London in consumptive cases. He 
£ave hopes of my recovery upon using proper diet and means. 

1 was bled yesterday for the third time : and my old doctor 
thinks, by gentle evacuations, and spring herbs to mend my 
juices. Be that as it may, I calmly leave all to God ; and use 
1he means without trusting in them. I am perfectly taken care 
of by my kind friends, whom I recommend to your prayers as 
well as myself. 

" With respect to my soul, I calmly wait, in unshaken re- 
flation, for the full salvation of my God ; ready to trust him. 
and to venture on his faithful love, and on the sure mercies 
of David, either at midnight, noonday, or cock-crowing : for 
my times are in his hand, and his time is best, and is my time. 
Death has lost his sting : and, I thank God, I know not what 
hurry of spirit is, or unbelieving fears, under my most terrifying 
symptoms. Glory be to God in Christ for this unspeakable 
mercy ! Help me to praise him for it." 

42. One of those who visited him at Newington, was Mr. 
"William Perronet : a pious, sensible, benevolent, and amiable . 
man, who was snatched hence in- the strength of his years. He 
often said, the first sight of Mr. Fletcher fixed an impression 
upon his mind, which never wore off, till it issued in a r^al con- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



version to God; accompanied with a most affectionate and 
lasting regard for the instrument of that happy change." 

Of this friendly man Mr. Fletcher writes thus to Miss Perro- 
net : " I cannot tell you how much I am obliged to your dear 
brother, for all his kind, brotherly attendance, as a physician. 
He has given me his time, his long walks, his remedies : he 
has brought me Dr. Turner several times, and will not so 
much as allow me to reimburse his expenses. Help me to 
thank him for all his profusion of love, for I cannot sufficiently 
do it myself. Give my duty to your father : I throw myself in 
spirit at his feet, and ask his blessing, and an interest in his 
prayers. Tell him that the Lord is gracious to me ; does not 
suffer the enemy to disturb my peace ; and gives me, in pros- 
pect, the victory over death. — Thanks be to God, who giveth 
us this great victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ : Absoluts 
resignation to the Divine will baffles a thousand temptations* 
and confidence in our Saviour carries us sweetly through a 
thousand trials. God fill us abundantly with both !" 

43. But although he had every help of advice and medicine, 
as well as diet, air, and attendance, which he could have, alL 
at this time, proved ineffectual to restore him. His physicians, 
therefore, advised that he should again have recourse to the 
Bristol waters. Accordingly Mr. Ireland, who had visited 
him while at Newington, and had brought Sir John Elliott to 
see him, as before-mentioned, came, with Mrs. Ireland, and 
took him to their house at Brislington, near Bristol, for that 
purpose. A little after his arrival there, he wrote the following- 
letter of thanks to the kind friends who had entertained him so 
long, and with so much affection, at Newington. 

"To my very dear Friends and Benefactors, Charles and 
Mary Greenwood. — My prayers shall always be, that the mer- 
ciful may find mercy, and that the great kindness I have found 
under your quiet roof, may be showed you every where under 
the canopy of heaven. — I think with grateful joy, on the days 
of calm retreat I have been blessed with at Newington, and la- 
ment my not having improved better the opportunity of sitting, 
like Mary, at the feet of my great Physician. May he requite 



THE LIFE OF 



jour kind care to a dying worm, by abundantly caring tor you 
and yours, and making all your bed in your sickness ! May you 
enjoy full health ! May you hunger and thirst after righteous- 
ness, both that of Christ, and that of the Holy Ghost, and be 
abundantly filled therewith ! May his rod and staff comfort 
you under all the troubles of life, the decays of the body, the 
assaults of the enemy, and the pangs of death ! May the reviv- 
ing cordials of the word of truth be ever within the reach of 
your faith, and may your eager faith make a ready and constant 
use of them ; especially when faintings come upon you, and 
your hands begin to hang down ! May you stand in the clefts of 
the Rock of Ages, and there be safely sheltered, when all the 
storms of justice shall fall around ! May you have always such 
temporal and spiritual helps, friends, and comforts, as I have 
found in your pleasing retreat ! 

u You have received a poor Lazarus, though his sores Were 

not visible. You have had compassion, like the good Samaritan : 
you have admitted me to the enjoyment of your best things ; 
and he that did not deserve to have the dogs to lick his sores, has 
always found the members of Jesus ready to prevent, to remove, 
or to bear his burdens. And now what shall I say ? What but, 
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift ! and thanks to my 
dear friends for all their favours ! They will, I trust, be found 
faithfully recorded in my breast, when the great Rewarder of 
those who diligently seek him, will render to every man according 
to his works. Then shall a raised Lazarus appear in the gate, 
to testify of the love of Charles and Mary Greenwood, and of 
their godly sister. 

;c 1 thought myself a little better last Sunday ; but I have 
since spit more blood than I had done for weeks before. Glory 
be to God for every providence ! His will be done in me, by 
health or sickness, by life or death ! All from him is, and, I 
dust, will always be welcome to your obliged pensioner, 

J. F." 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



217 



CHAPTER VII. 

From his Leaving Newington, till his Return from Switzerland 
to Madeley. 

I. It was in the latter end of April, 1777, that Mr. Fletcher 
was removed from Newington to Bristol, having continued with 
Mr. Greenwood upwards of fifteen weeks. " I was desired by 
Mr. and Mrs. Ireland," says Miss Thornton, " to bear them 
company to Bristol, which I willingly did. Indeed I looked 
upon it as a call from God : nor could 1 desire a greater honour, 
than to share in the employment of angels, in ministering to a 
distinguished heir of salvation. At Brislington, near Bristol, he 
continued in the same holy, earnest course, as at Newington. 
Every day he drank the Hotwell water, and it agreed with him 
well : so that he appeared to gather a little strength ; though 
not so swiftly as was expected. And all the strength which he 
received he laid out in labours of love, for the benefit of all 
those, rich or poor, whom Providence cast in his way. 

" Whenever he was in company, it was his general method, so 
far as his strength would admit, to pray particularly for every 
person present. And from his habitual prayer resulted that 
life and energy in his words, which every one that was blest 
with his society, felt more or less. Now and then likewise he 
adventured to pray in the family. But he was not wary enough 
in this. He more than once so much exerted himself, that he 
was brought very low. As soon as he was well enough to write, 
he was intent upon finishing two treatises for the press. The 
Plan of Reconciliation in particular, lay very near his heart. 
He longed to conclude it before he died, which he wished to do, 
breathing peace to Jerusalem, and pointing out to the children 
of God the most probable means of effecting it : of uniting 
together, in the bonds of peace and love, all the true ministers 
and followers of Jesus.'' 

23 



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2. From Bristol he paid his friends in Bath a visit, from 
whence, July 8, 1777, he wrote as follows, to one of his 
parishioners. 

" My dear Brother, 
" I heartily thank you for your kind letter ; and by you, I 
desire to give my best thanks to the dear companions in tribula- 
tion whom you meet, and who so kindly remember so worthless 
and unprofitable a minister as me. May the God of all grace 
and love, our common Father, and our all, bless you all, and 
all our brethren, with all blessings spiritual ; and with such 
temporal favours as will best serve the end of your growth 
in grace. 

" My desire is, if I should be spared to minister to you again, 
to do it with more humility, zeal, diligence, and love ; and to 
make more of you all than I have done. But as matters are, 
you must take the will for the deed. Let us all praise God for 
what is past, and trust him for what is to come. The Lord 
enable you to cleave to Christ, and in him, to abide in one 
mind, striving together for the hope of the Gospel, the fulness 
of the Spirit, and that kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy 
in the Holy Ghost, of which we have so often discoursed 
together, but into which we have not pressed with sufficient 
ardour and violence. God give us the humble, violent faith, 
which inherits the promise of the Father, that we may triumph 
in Christ, and adorn his Gospel in life and death. 

" I hope to see you before the summer is ended, if it please 
God to spare me and give me strength for the journey. I am 
in some respects better than when I came here, and was enabled 
to bury a corpse last Sunday, to oblige the minister of the parish ; 
but whether it was that little exertion of voice, or something 
else, bad symptoms have returned since. Be that as it may, all 
is well ; for he that does all things well, rules and overrules all. 
1 have stood the heats we have had these two days better than 
I expected. I desire you will help me to bless the Author of 
all good, for this and every other blessing of this life : but above 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



219 



all for the lively hopes of the next, and for Christ, our common 
hope, peace, joy, wisdom, righteousness, salvation, and all. In 
him I meet, love, and embrace you. God bless you all, and 
crown you with loving-kindness and tender mercy all the day 
long! I live, if you stand. Don't let me want the reviving 
cordial of hearing that you stand together firm in the faith, bro- 
ken in humility, and rejoicing in the loving hope of the glory of 
God. Look much at Jesus. Bless God much for the gift of 
his only begotten Son. Be much in private prayer. Forsake 
not the assembling yourselves together in little companies, as 
well as in public. Walk humbly as in the sight of death and 
eternity; and ever pray for your affectionate, but unworthy 
minister, 

J. F." 

3. He made no long stay at Bath, nut spent the chief part of his 
time, for several months, at Brislington or Bristol. In one place 
or the other, as well as at Newington, he was visited by many 
respectable persons. Many of these were Calvinists ; several 
of whom bore witness to his deep piety and exalted spirit. 
But a dissenting minister, after pressing him hard, with regard 
to some of his opinions, told him, with great warmth, " Mr. 
Fletcher, you had better have been gasping for life with an 
asthma, or have had all your limbs unstrung by a palsy, than to 
have written those Checks." Mr. Fletcher replied, " Sir, I then 
wanted more love, and I do so still :" and in his highest fervours 
of divine love, he always acknowledged his want of more. 

4. Here also, he missed no opportunity of instructing ser- 
vants and children, suiting his discourse in a manner peculiar to 
himself, to their capacity, or their business. And what would 
have appeared low in another, did not appear so, when spoken 
by him. Thus he advised the cook, " To stir up the fire of 
divine love in his heart, that it might burn up all the rubbish 
therein, and raise a flame of holy affection : 55 to which, with the 
greatest cordiality, he subjoined a short prayer. Thus to the 
housemaid he said, " I entreat you to sweep every corner of your 
heart, that it may be fit to receive your heavenly Guest.'' To a 



^20 



THE LIFE Of 1 



poor man who came there in a deep consumption, but little con- 
cerned for his soul, he said in a very solemn manner, (laying one 
hand on his own breast, and the other on the poor man's) " God 
has fixed a loud knocker at your breast and mine. Because we 
did not regard, as we ought to have done, the gentle knocks and 
calls of his holy Spirit, his word, and his providences, he has 
taken fast hold here, and we cannot get out of his hand. O 
let the knocker awaken you, who are just dropping into eter- 
nity !" 

When one or another occasionally mentioned any unkind 
thing which had been said of him or his writings, if the person 
who had said it was named, he would stop the speaker imme- 
diately, and offer up the most fervent prayer, for the person of 
whom he spoke. He did not willingly suffer any one to say any 
thing against his opponents. And he made all the allowances 
for therru which, on a change of circumstances, he would have 
wished them to make for him. 

5. This year our annual conference was held at Bristol. 
Here and at Brislington, I had several opportunities of seeing 
and conversing with Mr. Fletcher, and always found him in the 
devout and zealous spirit above described. He happened to be 
passing by the door of the stable belonging to our chapel in 
Broad-Mead, when I was lighting from my horse, and I shall never 
forget with what a heavenly air, and sweet countenance, he in- 
stantly came up to me in the stable, and in a most solemn man- 
ner, putting his hands upon my head, as if he had been ordaining 
me for the sacred office of the ministry, prayed most fer- 
vently for, and blessed me in the name of the Lord. To act in 
this way indeed, towards his friends, was no uncommon thing 
with him : he was wont to do it frequently, and that in a man- 
ner so serious and devout, that it was almost impossible not to 
be deeply affected with it. 

" In August, 1777, 1 ' says Mr. James Rogers, " I was appoint- 
ed to (leave Edinburgh, and) labour in the east of Cornwall. I 
had long desired to converse with that great and good man, Mr. 
Fletcher ; and now an opportunity offered itself. Stopping at 
Bristol for a few days to rest myself and horse, I heard of his 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



221 



being at Mr. Ireland's, about three miles off, in a poor state of 
health, and, with two of my brethren, went to see him. When 
we came there he was returning from a ride, which he was 
advised by his physician to take every day. Dismounting from 
his horse, he came towards us with arms spread open, and eyes 
lifted up to heaven. His apostolic appearance, with the whole 
of his deportment, amazingly affected us. 

" The first words he spoke, while yet standing in the stable 
by his horse, were a part of the sixteenth chapter of St. John, 
most of which he repeated. And whilst he pointed out the 
descent of the Holy Ghost, as the great promise of the Father, 
and the privilege of all New Testament believers, in a manner 
I never had heard before, my soul was dissolved into tender- 
ness, and became even as melting wax before the fire. 

" As an invidious report had been spread that he had recanted 
what he had lately written against Calvinism, in those excellent 
writings of hie, entitled his £ Checks, &c.' I took the liberty to 
mention the report, and asked him what he thought had given 
rise to it ? He replied he could not tell ; except that he had 
refrained from speaking on controverted points since he came to 
Mr. Ireland's : partly by reason of the poor state of his health, 
and because he did not wish to grieve his kind friend by making 
his house a field of controversy. But he assured us he had 
never yet seen cause to repent of what he had written in de- 
fence of the Rev. Mr. Wesley's Minutes. And although he be- 
lieved his close application was the mean of reducing his body to 
the state in which we then saw it, yet if he fell a victim, it was in 
a good cause. 

" After a little further conversation upon the universal love of 
God in Christ Jesus, we were about to take our leave, when 
Mr. Ireland sent his footman into the yard with a bottle of red 
wine, and some slices of bread upon a waiter : we all uncovered 
our heads while Mr. Fletcher craved a blessing upon the same ; 
which he had no sooner done ; but he handed, first the bread to 
each, and lifting up his eyes to heaven pronounced those words, 
' The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, 
preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.' Afterwards 



222 



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handing the wine, he repeated in like manner, 4 The blood of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.' But such a sacrament I never had 
before. A sense of the Divine Presence rested upon us all ; 
and we were melted into floods of tears. His worthy friend, 
Mr. Ireland, grieved to see him exhaust his little strength by so 
much speaking, took him by the arm and almost forced him into 
the house ; while he kept looking wishfully, and speaking to us, 
as long as we could see him. We then mounted our horses and 
rode away. That very hour more than repaid me for my 
whole journey from Edinburgh to Cornwall." 

6. Sept. 6, of that year, he wrote as follows, to the amiable 
and venerable Vincent Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham. 

" My very dear Father, 
" I humbly thank you for the honour and consolation of your 
two kind letters. Your vouchsafing to remember a poor, un- 
profitable worm, is to me a sure token that my heavenly Father 
earnestly remembers me still. He is Crod, and therefore I am 
not consumed : — He is a merciful, all-gracious God, and there- 
fore I am blessed with sympathising friends and gracious helpers 
on all sides. O Sir, if in this disordered, imperfect state of the 
church, I meet with so much kindness, what shall I not meet 
with when the millennium you pray for, shall begin ! Oh that the 
thought, the glorious hope, may animate me to perfect holiness 
in the fear of God ; that I may be accounted worthy to escape 
the terrible judgments which will make way for that happy state 
of things, and that I may have a part in the first resurrection, 
if I am numbered among the dead before that happy period 
begin ! 

" Oh ! for a firm and lasting faith, 
To credit all the Almighty saith ! 
To embrace the promise of his Son, 
And call that glorious Rest our own !" 

« We are saved by hope, at this time. But hope that is seen 
is not hope. Let us abound, then, in hope, through the power 
of the Holy Ghost : so shall we antedate the millennium, take 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



223 



the kingdom, and enjoy, beforehand, the rest which remains for 
the people of God. Your great age, dear Sir, and my great 
weakness, have brought us to the verge of eternity. Oh ! may 
we exult in the prospect, and look on that boundless sea, 
through the glass of faith, and through the clefts of the Rock of 
Ages, struck for us, through the veil of Christ's flesh, who by 
dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, is become 
our resurrection and our life. 

" One of my parishioners brought a horse last week to 
carry me home ; and desired to walk by my side all the way. 
By the advice of your dear son, (Mr. William Perronet,) who 
still continues to bestow upon me all the help I could expect 
from the most loving brother, I sent the man back. I thank 
God I am a little stronger than when I came hither. I kiss the 
rod, lean on the staff, and wait the end. I yesterday saw a phy- 
sician who told me my case is not yet an absolutely lost case. 
But the prospect of languishing two or three years longer, a 
burden to every body, a help to none, would be very painful, 
if the will of God and the covenant of life in Christ Jesus did 
not sanctify all circumstances, and dispel every gloom. I re- 
member with grateful joy the happy days I spent at Shoreham : 
Tecum vivere amem ; tecum obeam hibens.* But, what is better 
still, I shall live with the Lord and with you for ever and ever, 
Your obliged servant and affectionate Son, 

J. F." 

7. Mr. Fletcher continued at Brislington till the end of sum- 
mer, by which time it evidently appeared that the Hotwell 
water, and the other means which had been recommended by 
his physicians, and tried for so many months, had produced little 
or no good effect. It was then concluded that nothing, humanly 
speaking, could save his life, but a sea voyage, and his own 
country air. This, as was observed above, had been recom- 
mended by his friend Mr. Ireland, with the advice of a physician, 
the preceding year. Then, however, he could not be prevailed 

* " I could love to live with you ; with you I would willingly die." 



224 



THE LIFE OF 



upon to try these remedies. But now, finding all other means 
ineffectual, he consented, and that the more readily, as one of 
his sisters was in a poor state of health, and, indeed, apparently 
dying, in Switzerland, and he ardently wished to see and converse 
with her before her departure. As soon as a voyage to the 
Continent was concluded on, he wrote as follows to Mrs. 
Thornton. 

" I am going to do by my poor sister what you have done by 
me, to try to smooth the road of sickness to the chamber of 
death. Gratitude and blood call me to it : — you have done it 
without such calls ; your Christian kindness is freer than mine ; 
but not so free as the love of Jesus, who took upon him our 
nature, that he might bear our infirmities, die our death, and 
make over to us his resurrection and his life, after all we had 
done to render life hateful and death horrible to him. O ! for 
this matchless love, let rocks and hills, let hearts and tongues 
break an ungrateful silence ; and let your Christian muse find 
new anthems, and your poetic heart new flights of eloquence and 
thankfulness ! 

" I shall be glad to hear from you in Switzerland, and shall 
doubly rejoice, if you can send me word, that she, who is joined 
to the Lord according to the glory of the new covenant, is one 
spirit with him, and enjoys all the glorious liberty of the children 
of God.*' 

<8. It appears, however, that shortly after this he became so 
much worse as to have great reason to doubt whether he should 
be able to make such a voyage. — " You* should have heard 
from me," says he to the same person a few weeks afterwards, 
u if sometimes want of spirits to hold a pen, and for some days, 
want of paper, had not stood in the way of my inclination. 
Now I have paper, and a degree of strength, how can I employ 
both better, than in trying to fulfil with my pen the great 
commandment, which contains my duty to God and my neigh- 
bour ? But what can a pen do here ! — It can just testify 
what my heart feels, — That no words can describe, what I owe 
to my heavenly Benefactor, to my earthly friends, and to you 
in particular, who have had so much patience as to stand by 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



225 



me, and bear a share in my burdens, for so many months, at 
home and abroad. 

" May the merciful, faithful God, who has promised that a 
cup of cold water given to the least of his followers, shall not 
lose its reward ; — may that omnipotent God, who sees you in 
all the states of weakness which await you between the 
present moment and the hour of death, give you all that can 
make your life comfortable, your trials tolerable, your death 
triumphant, and your eternity glorious ! 

" What I ask for you, I also peculiarly beg for your dear 
brother and sister, who have vouchsafed to bind so dry, so 
insignificant (I had almost said, so rotten) a stick as myself in 
the bundle of that love with which they embrace the* poor, 
the lame, the helpless, the loathsome, and those who have their 
sores without, as Lazarus, or within, as L May we all be 
found bound up together in the bundle of life, light, and love, 
with our Lord ! And when he shall make up his jewels, may 
you all shine among his diamonds of the finest water and the 
first magnitude ! 

" You want, possibly, to know how I go on. Though I am 
not worth a line, I shall observe, to the glory of my patient, 
merciful Preserver and Redeemer, that I am kept in sweet 
peace, and a looking for the triumphant joy of my Lord, and 
for the fulness expressed in these words, which sweetly filled the 
sleepless hours of last night,— 

" Drawn, — and redeemed,— and seaPd, 
I bless the One and Three, 
With Father, Son, and Spirit fill'd 
To all eternity." 

u With respect to my body, T sleep less, and spit more blood 
than I did when you were here, nor can I bear the least trot 
of an easy horse. If this continue many days, instead of 
thinking to go and see my friends on the Continent, I shall turn 
my steps to my earthly home, to be ready to lay my bones in 
my church-yard ; and in such a case 1 shall put you in mind 
of your kind promise, that you would do to the last the ofBce of a 

29 



226 



THE LliE OF 



guardian angel, — hold up my hands in my last conflict, and 
close my eyes when it is over. Two of my parishioners came 
to convey me safe home, and had persuaded me to go with 
them in a post chaise ; but I had so bad a night before the 
day 1 was to set out, that I gave it up. My prospects and ways 
are shut up, so that I have nothing to look at but Jesus and the 
grave. May I so look at them as to live in Him who is my re- 
surrection and life ; and die in all the meekness and holiness of 
my Lord and my all ! I humbly request a continued interest in 
your fervent prayers, that I may be found completely ready 
when my Lord's messenger shall come for my soul." 

9. In the latter end of October he found himself a little 
restored, as appears by a letter written from Madeley on the 
21st of that month, and addressed to lady Mary Fitzgerald ; 
in which he says, " I have taken the bark for some days, and it 
seems to have been blessed to the removal of my spitting of 
blood. Time will decide whether it be a real removal, or 
only a suspension of that symptom. Either will prove a bless- 
ing, as His will is our health." With respect to his intended 
journey, he observes to the same Right Honourable person: 
" My brothers and sisters invite me to breathe once more my 
natal air ; and the physicians recommend to me a journey to the 
Continent. I wait for the last intimations of Providence to 
determine me to go. If I do, I shall probably pass through 
London, and in that case I could have the honour of waiting 
upon you. I say probably, because I shall only follow my 
friend, and a serious family which goes to spend the winter in 
the South of France, or in Spain ; and I do not yet know whe- 
ther they design to embark at Dover, or at some port in the 
West of England. 

" You have been afflicted," he further adds, " as well as my- 
self. May our maladies yield the peaceable fruits of righteous- 
ness — complete deadness to the world, and increased faith in 
the mercy, love, and power of Him, who supports under the 
greatest trials, and can make our extremity of weakness an 
opportunity of displaying thefreeness of his grace, and the great- 
aess of his power. Tell Mrs. G and Mrs. L that I 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



227 



salute them under the cross with the sympathy of a companion 
in tribulation ; and rejoice at the thought of doing it when the 
cross shall be exchanged for the crown. In the meantime, let 
us glory in the cross of our common Head, and firmly believe, 
that he is exalted to give us whatever is best for us, in life, in 
death, and for ever." 

The following observations, in the same letter, are also well 
worth attention : " In order to live singly to God, the best me- 
thod is to desire it with meekness ; to spread the desire in quiet- 
ness before him who inspired it ; to offer him now all we have 
and are, as we can ; and to enlarge our expectation, that he may 
satisfy it with good things, with all his fulness, or that he may 
try our patience, and teach us to know our total helplessness. 
With respect to the weeping frame of repentance, and the joy- 
ous one of faith, they are both good alternately ; but the latter 
is the better of the two, because it enables us to do and suffer 
the will of God, and praise him, which honours Christ more ; 
both are happily mixed. May they be so in you, Madam, and 
in your unworthy and obliged servant, 

J. F » 

10. It was by the advice of Mr, William Perronet, who had 
been so kind as to go from London to Bristol to visit him, that 
he took the bark. To him he writes, Nov. 1 9, — " May the 
Lord visit you when you shall be sick ! and may he raise you 
such kind friends, helpers, and comforters, as he has raised to 
me ! I have continued to take the bark since you went, and it 
seems to have been blest to me. My spitting of blood is almost 
stopped ; my breast stronger. I am, I hope, better, upon the 
whole ; and if I do not relapse, I may yet be able to preach, 
according to your dear father's prophecy. I hope to have the 
pleasure of seeing and thanking you, Sir, and Dr. Turner, in my 
way to Dover, some time the week after next. 

" Oh ! my dear friend, Jesus is at the end of the race. 
Your dear brothers* have run it out ; we follow them. O ! for 
more speed ! more winged despatch ! more of that power that 

* Messrs. Vincent and Charles Perronet, and some others of the Rev. Mr, 
Perronet's children, who had died in great peace and triumph. 



228 



•X11E LIFE Oi" 



takes the kingdom of heaven by violence ! That the Lord 
would give us more power, and make us more faithful in the use 
of that which we have, is the earnest prayer of your obliged 
friend, 

J. F." 

1 1 . The time of setting out on his journey to the Continent 
being now fixed, he judged it proper to explain himself more 
fully than he had done, to some of his friends at Madeley, and 
withal to signify his mind to them respecting some temporal 
affairs depending there. He therefore wrote as follows, to 
Messrs. Thomas York and Daniel Edmonds, who, it seems, for 
some time assisted him in managing the secular concerns of the 
vicarage. 

* The debt of gratitude I owe to a dying sister, who once 
took a very long journey to see me, when I was ill in Germany, 
and whom I just stopped from coming, last winter, to Newington 
to nurse me ; the unanimous advice of the physicians whom I 
have consulted, and the opportunity of travelling with serious 
friends, have at last determined me to remove to a warmer cli- 
mate. As it is doubtful, very doubtful, whether I shall be able 
to stand the journey ; and if I do, whether I shall be able to 
come back to England ; and if I come back, whether I shall be 
able to serve my church, it is right to make what provision I can 
to have it properly served while I live, and to secure some spiri- 
tual assistance to my serious parishioners when I shall be no 
more. I have attempted to build a house in Madeley- Wood, 
about the centre of the parish, where I should be glad the 
children might be taught to read and write in the day, and the 
grown up people might hear the word of God in the evening, 
when they can get an evangelist to preach it to them ; and 
where the serious people might assemble for social worship 
when they have no teacher. 

" This has involved me in some difficulties about discharging 
the expense of that building, and paying for the ground it stands 
upon; especially as my ill health has put me on the additional 
expense of an assistant. If I had strength, I would serve my 
'•hurch alone, board as cheap as I could, and save what I could 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



229 



from the produce of the living to clear the debt, and leave that 
little token of irry love free from encumbrances to my parish- 
ioners. But as Providence orders things otherwise, I have 
another object, which is to secure a faithful minister to serve 
the church while I live. Providence has sent me dear Mr. 
Greaves, who loves the people, and is loved by them. I should 
be glad to make him comfortable ; and as all the care of the 
flock, by my illness, devolves upon him, I would not hesitate 
for a moment to let him have all the profit of the living, if it 
were not for the debt contracted about the room. My difficulty 
lies, then, between what I owe to my fellow-labourer, and what 
I owe to my parishioners, whom I should be sorry to have bur= 
dened with a debt contracted for the room. 

" I beg you will let me know how the balance of my ac 
count stands, that, some way or other, I may order it to be paid 
immediately ; for if the balance is against me, I could not leave 
England comfortably, without having settled the payment. A 
letter will settle this business, as well as if twenty friends were 
at the trouble of taking a journey ; and talking is far worse for me 
than reading or writing. I do not say this to put a slight upon 
my dear friends. I should rejoice to see them, if it .would 
answer any end. 

66 Ten thousand pardons of my dear friends, for troubling 
them with this scrawl about worldly matters. May God help 
us all so to settle our eternal concerns, that when we shall be 
called to go to our long home and heavenly country, we may 
be ready, and have our acquittance along with us. I am quite 
tired with writing, nevertheless, I cannot lay by my pen, with- 
out desiring my best Christian love to all my dear companions in 
tribulation, and neighbours in Shropshire." 

To another friend whom he had been also obliged to trouble 
in that way, his words are : — " Pardon the trouble I have given 
you in my temporal concerns ; it is more for the poor and the 
Lord than for me. O! my dear friend, let us pass through the 
things temporal so as not to lose the things eternal. Let us ho- 
nour God's truth, by believing his word; Christ's blood, by 
hoping firmly in divine mercy ; and all the divine perfections, by 



230 



THE LIFE OF 



loving God with all our hearts, and one another as Christ loved 
us. My kind love to all the brethren on both sides the water. 

" Go from me to Mrs. , tell her, I charge her, in the name 

of God, to give up the world, to set out with all speed for hea- 
ven, and to join the few that fear God about her. If she refuse, 
call weekly, if not daily, and warn her from me. Tell the bre- 
thren at Broseley, that I did my body an injury the last time I 
preached to them on the green ; but I do not repine at it, if 
they took the warning, and have ceased to be neither hot nor 
cold, and begin to be warm in zeal, love, prayer, and every 
grace. Give my love to — — , tell him to make haste to 
Christ, and not to doze away his last days. 

" The physician has not yet given me up ; but I bless God, I 
do not wait for his farewell, to give myself up to my God and 
Saviour. I write by stealth, as my friends here would have me 
forbear writing, and even talking ; but I will never part with my 
privilege of writing and shouting Thanks be to God who giveth 
us the victory over sin, death and the grave, through Jesus 
Christ ! To him be glory for ever and ever." 

12. The above letters manifest, in a striking light, his grati- 
tude to his benefactors, and his great love to his parishioners, 
and concern for their salvation. But the latter is discovered 
still more in the following pastoral address to them, written a 
few days before he left Bristol. 

" To the brethren who hear the word of God in the parish church 
of Madeley. 

" My dear Brethren, 
" I thank you for the declaration of your affectionate remem- 
brance, which you have sent me by , the messenger of your 

brotherly love. As a variety of reasons, with which I shall not 
trouble you, prevent my coming to take my leave of you in per- 
son, permit me to do it by letter. The hopes of recovering a 
little strength to come and serve you again in the Gospel, make 
me take the advice of the physicians, who say, that removing to 
a drier air and warmer climate, might be of great service to my 
health. I kiss the rod which smites me. I adore the provi- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



231 



dence which lays me aside ; and beg that by this long correc- 
tion of my heavenly Father, I may be so pruned as to bring 
forth more fruit, if 1 am spared. 

" I am more and more persuaded that I have not declared 
unto you cunningly devised fables, and that the Gospel I have 
had the honour of preaching, though feebly, among you, is the 
power of God to salvation, to every one who believes it with the 
heart. God grant we may all be of that happy number ! Want 
of time does not permit me to give you more directions ; but if 
you follow those which fill the rest of this page, they may sup- 
ply the want of a thousand. Have, every day, lower thoughts 
of yourselves, higher thoughts of Christ, kinder thoughts of your 
brethren, and more hopeful thoughts of all around you. Love 
to assemble in the great congregation, and with your companions 
in tribulation ; but above all, love to pray to your Father in 
secret : to consider your Saviour, who says, Look unto me, and 
be saved; and to listen for your Sanctifier and Comforter, who 
whispers, that he stands at the door, and knocks to enter into your 
inmost souls, and to set up his kingdom of righteousness, peace, 
and joy, with divine power, in your willing breasts. Wait all 
the day long for his glorious appearing within you ; and, when 
you are together, by suitable prayers, proper hymns, and en- 
livening exhortations, keep up your earnest expectation of his 
pardoning and sanctifying love. Let not a drop satisfy you; 
desire an ocean, at least a fountain springing up to your comfort 
in your own souls, and flowing towards all around you, in 
streams of love and delightful instructions, to the consolation 
of those with whom you converse; especially your brethren, 
and those of your own households. Do not eat your morsel 
by yourselves, like selfish, niggardly people ; but whether you 
eat the meat that perisheth, or that which endureth unto everlast- 
ing life, be ready to share it with all. Cast your bread upon the 
waters, in a temporal or spiritual sense, and it will not be lost 
God will bless your seed sown, and it will abundantly increase. 
Let every one with whom you converse, be the better for your 
conversation. Be burning and shining lights wherever you 
are. Set the fire of divine love to the hellish stubbie of sin, 



232 



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Be valiant for the truth. Be champions for love. Be sons of 
thunder against sin ; and sons of consolation towards humbled 
sinners. Be faithful to your God, your king, and your masters. 
Let not the good ways of God be blasphemed through any of 
you. Let your heavenly-mindedness and your brotherly-kind- 
ness be known to all men ! so that all who see you may wonder, 
and say, See how these people love one another I 

" You have need of patience, as well as of faith and power. 
You must learn to suffer, as well as to do the will of God. Do 
not, then, think it strange to pass through fiery trials ; they are 
excellent for the proving, purifying, and strengthening of your 
faith : only let your faith be firm in a tempest. Let your hope 
in Christ be as a sure anchor cast zoithin the vail; and } r our 
patient love will soon outride the storm, and make you find, 
there is a peace in Christ and in the Holy Ghost, which no 
man can give or take away. May that peace be abundantly 
given to you, from our common Father, our common Redeemer, 
and our common Sanctifier, our Covenant God, whom we have 
so often vouched to be our God and our all, when we have been 
assembled together in his name. 

" I leave this blessed island for awhile ; but I trust I shall 
never leave the kingdom of God, the Mount Sion, the New Je- 
rusalem, the shadow of Christ's cross, the clefts of the rock 
smitten and pierced for us. There I entreat you to meet me. 
There I meet you in spirit. From thence, I trust, I shall joy- 
fully leap into the ocean of eternity, to go and join those minis- 
tering spirits who wait on the heirs of salvation : and if I am no 
more permitted to minister to you in the land of the living, I 
rejoice at the thought, that 1 shall, perhaps, be allowed to ac- 
company the angels, who, if you continue in the faith, will be 
commissioned to carry your souls into Abraham's bosom. If our 
bodies do not moulder away in the same grave, our spirits shall 
be sweetly lost in the same sea of divine and brotherly love. I 
i hope to see you again in the flesh ; but my sweetest and firmest 
hope is to meet you where there are no parting seas, no inter- 
posing mountains, no sickness, no death, no fear of loving too 
touch, no shame for loving too little, no apprehension of burst- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



233 



mg new vessels in our lungs, by indulging the joy of seeing, or 
the sorrow of leaving our brethren. 

" In the meantime, I earnestly recommend you to the pas- 
toral care of the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, and to 
the brotherly care of one another, as well as to the ministerial 
care of my substitute. The authority of love which you 
allowed me to exert among you for edification, I return to you, 
and divide among you ; humbly requesting that you would mu- 
tually use it in warning the unruly, supporting the weak, and 
comforting all. Should I be spared to come back, let me have 
the joy of finding you all of one heart and one soul ; continuing 
steadfast in the apostle's doctrine, in fellowship one with another, 
and in communion with our sin-pardoning and sin-abhorring God. 
This you may do, through grace, by strongly believing in the 
atoning blood and sanctifying Spirit of Christ, our common head 
and our common life ; in whom my soul embraces you, and in 
whose gracious hands I leave both you and myself. Bear me 
on your hearts before him in praying love ; and be persuaded,, 
that you are thus borne by, my dear brethren, yours, &c. 

J. F." 

13. Mr. Fletcher did not leave Brislington till about the 
"beginning of December, when he set out for the South of 
France, in company with Mr. Ireland, two of his daughters, and 
another family. While at Reading, on his way, he wrote as 
follows, to his friend and father in Christ, the Rev. Vicar of 
Shoreham. 

" Reading, Dec. 2, 1777. 

" Honoured and dear Sir, 
" I acknowledge, though late, the favour of your letter. I 
nave given up the thought of going to my parish, and am now 
on the road to a warmer climate. The Lord, if it seem him 
good, may bless as much the change of air, as he has blessed the 
last remedy your son prescribed for me ; I mean the bark. If I 
should mend a little, I would begin to have faith in your pro- 
phocv. Tr the meantime let us have faith in Christ, more faith 



234 



THE LIFE OF 



day by day; till all the sayings of Christ arc verified to us and 
in us. Should I go to Geneva, I shall inquire after the Swiss 
friends of my dear benefactors at Shoreham, to whose prayers I 
humbly recommend myself and my dear fellow-travellers, one 
of whom, my little god-daughter, is but eight weeks old. May 
God abundantly bless you and yours, and reward you for all the 
kindness shown to, honoured and dear Sir, your obliged and 
obedient son in the Gospel, 

J. F." 

On the same sheet he wrote as follows to Miss Perronet, 

" My dear Friend, 
" I snatch a moment upon the road, to acknowledge the fa- 
vour of your letter, and to wish you joy in seeing the Lord is 
faithful in rewarding as well as punishing. I once met a gentle- 
man, an infidel, abroad, who said, £ Men have no faith : if they 
believed that, by forsaking houses, lands, friends, &c. they should 
receive an hundred-fold, they would instantly renounce all. For 
who would not carry all his money to the bank of heaven to re- 
ceive an hundred-fold interest ? The Papists have made so bad 
a use of the rewardableness of works, that we dare neither 
preach it nor hold it in a scriptural manner. For my part, I 
think, that if it were properly received, it would make a great 
alteration in the professing world. You dare receive it ; try the 
mighty use of it ; and when you have fully experienced it, do 
not keep your light to yourself, but impart it to all within the 
reach of your tongue and pen. I am glad you see that, after all, 
every reward bestowed upon a reprieved sinner, has free grace 
for its foundation, and the blood of Christ for its mark. May 
the richest rewards of divine grace be yours in consequence of 
the most exalted faithfulness ; and let me beseech you to pray, 
that 1 may follow you, as you follow Christ, till our reward be 
full. That God may fill you with all his fulness, is the wish of, 
mv dear friend, your obliged brother, 

J. F." 



THE KEV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



235 



14. When they arrived at Dover, the wind, though fair, was 
too high to admit of their venturing out to sea immediately. 
And I know not whether I ought to impute it to his great care 
to make the most of time, and snatch every moment of it for 
doing good, or to his great love to his people, that he would not 
let this short opportunity pass without dropping a few more lines 
to the pious of his flock. To them he writes : — " By the help 
of Divine Providence, and of your prayers, I have got safe to 
Dover ; and I find that the journey has, so far, been of service 
to me. I thought to have been in France by this time ; but the 
wind being high, though favourable, the mariners were afraid to 
leave the safe harbour, lest they should be driven on the French 
cliffs too fiercely. This delay gives me an opportunity of wri- 
ting a line to tell you that I shall bear you on my heart by sea 
and land ; that the earth is the Lord J s, with all the fulness thereof; 
that Jesus lives to pray for us ; and that I still recommend my- 
self to your prayers, hoping to hear of your order, steadfastness, 
and growth of faith towards Christ, and of love towards each 
other, which will greatly revive your affectionate friend and 
brother, 

J. F." 

He also wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Greenwood, before they set 
sail, as follows : — 

" Ten thousand blessings light upon the heads and hearts of 
'my dear benefactors, Charles and Mary Greenwood ! May their 
quiet retreat at Newington become a Bethel to them ! May 
their offspring be born again there ! And may the choicest con- 
solations of the Spirit visit their minds, whenever they retire 
thither from the busy city ! Their poor pensioner travels on, 
though slowly, towards the grave. His journey to the sea seems 
to him to have hastened, rather than retarded, his progress to 
his old mother, earth. May every providential blast blow him 
nearer to the heavenly haven of his Saviour's breast ; where, 
he hopes, one day, to meet all his benefactors, and among them, 
those whom he now addresses. O my dear friends, what shall 



236 



I render ? Wiiat to Jesus ? What to you ? May He, who invite* 
the heavy laden, take upon him all the burdens of kindness 
you have heaped on your Lazarus ! And may angels, when you 
die, find me in Abraham's bosom, and bring you into rame, that 
by all the kindness which may be shown in heaven, I may try 
to requite that you have shown to your obliged brother, 

J. F." 

15. On what day they sailed does not appear. But it seems 
they were not many hours in reaching Calais ; and according to 
a short account of the former part of their journey, given by 
Mr. Ireland, in a letter to a friend, they left that place Dec. 12. 
" The north wind," says he, "was very high, and penetrated 
us even in the chaise. We put up at Breteuil, and the next day 
got to Abbeville : whence we were forced by the miserable 
accommodations we met with, to set out, though it was Sunday. 
Mr. Fletcher and I used to lead the way : but now the other 
chaises got before us. Nine miles from Abbeville our axletree 
gave way through the hard frost, and we were both left to the 
piercing cold, on the side of a hill, without any shelter. After 
waiting an hour and a half we sent the axletree and wheels 
back to be repaired ; and leaving the body of the chaise under 
a guard, procured another to carry us to the next town. On 
the 15th, our chaise arrived in good repair. Travelling steadily 
forward (though the country was all covered with snow,) on the 
27th we reached Dijon. During the whole journey, Mr. 
Fletcher showed visible marks of a recovery. He bore both 
the fatigue and piercing cold as well as the best of us. On the 
31st we put up at Lyons, and solemnly closed the year, bowing 
our knees before the throne, which indeed we did not fail to do 
all together, every day. Jan. 4, 1778, we left Lyons, and came 
on the 9th to Aix. Here we rest: the weather being exceeding 
fine and warm. Mr. Fletcher walks out daily. He is now able 
to read and to pray with us every morning and evening. He 
has no remains of his cough, nor of the weakness in his breast. 
Hie natural colour is restored, and the sallowness quite gone. 
His appetite is good, and he takes a little wine. : ' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



237 



16. In another letter Mr. Ireland writes thus: — Soon after 
our arrival here, I rode out most days with my dear and 
valuable friend. He now and then complained of the un- 
easiness of the horse, and there were some remains of sore- 
ness in his breast. But this soon went off. The beginning 
of February was warm, and the warmth, when he walked in 
the fields, relaxed him too much. But when the wind got 
north or east, he was braced again. His appetite is good : 
his complexion as healthy as it was eleven years ago. As his 
strength increases he increases the length of his rides. Last 
Tuesday he set out on a journey of a hundred and twelve miles. 
The first day he travelled forty miles, without feeling any 
fatigue. The third day he travelled fifty five : he bore his 
journey as well as 1 did ; arid was as well and as active at 
the end of it as at the beginning. During the day, he cried 
out, " Help me to praise the Lord for his goodness : I never 
expected to see this day." He now accepted a pressing in- 
vitation to preach to the Protestants here. He did so on Sun- 
day morning on these words : Examine yourselves, whether ye be 
in the faith. For some days before, he was afraid he had done 
wrong in accepting the invitation. But, O! how shall I be 
able to express the power and liberty which the Lord gave 
him ! Both the French and English were greatly affected : 
the word went to the hearts both of saints and sinners. If the 
Lord continue his strength and voice (which is now as good as 
ever it was,) he has an earnest invitation to preach where we 
are going, near Montpelier. You would be astonished at the 
entreaties of pastors as well as people. He has received a 
letter from a minister in the Levine mountains, who intends 
to come to Montpelier, sixty miles, to press him to go and 
preach to his flock. He purposes to spend the next summer in 
his own country, and the following winter in these parts, or 
in some part of the South of France." 

17. According to Mr. Wesley, "When he had a little re- 
covered his strength," (but whether at this time or afterward, 
during his stay on the Continent, is very doubtful,) " he made a 
*our through Italy, and paid a visit to Rome. While he was 



233 



THE LIFE OF 



here, as Mr. Ireland and he were one day going through one 
of the streets in a coach, they were informed, 4 the pope was 
coming forward, and it would be required of them to come 
out of the coach and kneel while he went by, as all the people 
did ; if they did not, in all probability the zealous mob would 
fall upon them, and knock them on the head.' But this, what- 
ever might be the consequence, they flatly refused to do ; judg- 
ing the paying such honour to a man was neither better nor 
worse than idolatry. The coachman was exceedingly terrified, 
not knowing what to do. However at length he made a shift to 
turn aside into a narrow way. The pope was in an open landau. 
He waved his hands as if he had been swimming ; and fre- 
quently repeated these words, " God bless you all !" Mr. 
Fletcher's spirit was greatly stirred, and he longed to bear a 
public testimony against antichrist. And he would un- 
doubtedly have done it had he been able to speak Italian. He 
could hardly refrain from doing it in Latin, till he considered 
that only the priests could have understood him. One to 
whom he related this, saying, £ If you had done this the multi- 
tude would have torn you in pieces :' he answered, I believe 
the pope himself would have prevented it; for he was a man 
of sense and humanity." 

18. While he was in the South of France, probably at Mar- 
seilles or Aix, and some time in the beginning of the spring, 
he wrote as follows to his curate, Mr. Greaves. As the letter 
is without date, the circumstances of time and place are rather 
uncertain. 

" My very dear Brother, 
" I am in daily expectation of a line from you, to let me 
know how you do, and how it goes with our dear flock ; but I 
doubt whether I shall stay long enough here to receive your 
letter. I received one yesterday from my second brother, who 
acquaints me that he was to set out the 23d of last month, to 
come hither and take me to my native country, where my 
sick sister wants greatly to see me. If no accident has be- 
fallen him by the way, I think he will be here the latter end 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



239 



of this week, or the beginning of next ; so that, please God, 
I shall set out next week from this place, where the winter 
has been uncommonly rainy and windy. We had even half 
an inch of snow last week, but it was gone long before noon. 
The climate has, nevertheless, agreed with me better than 
England, and as a proof it, I need only tell you, that I rode 
last Friday from Hieres, the Orange-Gardens of France, 
hither, which is near fifty miles, and was well enough to 
preach last Sunday in French, at the Protestant Chapel. 
Two English clergymen came to hear me there, and one of 
them takes these lines to England, where I hope they will 
find you in health of body and soul, growing in strength of 
faith, in firmness of hope, and fervency of love to God and man, 
and especially to those whom you are tempted to think 
hardly of, if any such there be. O my dear brother, no re- 
ligion will, in the end, do us and our people any good, but that 
which " works by love," — humble, childlike, obedient love. 
May that religion fill our souls, and influence all our tempers, 
words, and actions, and may the leaven leaven the whole lump : 
may St. James's peaceable religion spread through all our 
parish. Please at the first convenient opportunity to read the 
following note in the church. 

" John Fletcher sends his best Christian love to the congre- 
gation that worships God in the parish church at Madeley ; he 
begs the continuance of their prayers for strength of body and 
mind, that he may be able, (if it be the will of God,) to serve 
them again in the Gospel. He desires them to return Almighty 
God thanks for having enabled him to speak again in public 
last Sunday, without having had a return of his spitting of blood, 
which he considers as a token that his fife may be spared a 
little, to go and exhort them to grow in grace, in the knowledge 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in brotherly love, the best marks 
that we know God, and are in the faith of Christ. 

" I hope, my dear brother, you are settled to your satisfac- 
tion, and I shall be glad to do what is in my power to make 
your stay at Madeley agreeable. I hope you read sometimes in 



240 



THE LIFE OF 



the study, the copy of the exhortation given us by the ordinary, 
in which are these awful words : L Cease not from your labour, 
care, and diligence, till all those who are committed to your 
charge come to such a ripeness of age in Christ that there be no 
room left among them for error in doctrine or viciousness in life.' 
I wish you may have as much success as we desire ; but what- 
ever success we have, we must cast our bread upon the waters, 
though we should see as little fruit as he that said of old, ' I have 
laboured in vain :? for our reward will be with the Lord, if not 
with men." 

Soon after his brother conducted him from Montpelier to 
Nyon, the place of his nativity. Here he lived in that which 
was his father's house, in the midst of his affectionate relations, 
who took care that he should neither want the best advice, per- 
haps equal to any in Europe, nor any thing that could possibly 
contribute to the full recovery of his health. 

19. In a letter from thence to Mr. William Perronet, May 
15, he observes : — " The climate, and prospect, and fine roads, 
and pure air I enjoy here, had contributed to strengthen me a 
little, when an accident, I think, has pulled me back. About a 
month ago, something I was chewing got into my windpipe, and 
caused a fit of coughing, with the greatest efforts of the lungs 
for half an hour. I then began to spit blood again, and ever 
since I have had a bad cough, which has sometimes exer- 
cised me violently for an hour after my first sleep. My cough, 
however, has been better again these two days, and I hope it 
will go ofF. 1 have bought a quiet horse, whose easy pace I 
can bear, and I ride much. Upon the whole, if my cough leave 
me, I may yet recover my strength. But if it fix, it will proba- 
bly be my last. The will of the Lord be done ! I have not 
ventured upon preaching since I came hither. It would be im- 
possible for me now to go through it. If the weather should 
grow hot. I may at any time go to the hills, the foot of which is 
but five or six miles distant. I drink goats 7 milk, and have lefi 
off meat since the cough came on, but design eating a little again 
nt dinner." 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



241 



20. It appears that Mr. Ireland either accompanied him to 
Nyon in Switzerland, along with his brother, or afterward met 
him at Macon in Burgundy, where Mr. Fletcher was on the 
17th of this same month, and from whence he wrote to the 
Rev. John and Charles Wesley, and gave a further account of 
the state of his health, and of the declension of religion, and 
the prevalence of infidelity in France. His letter is peculiarly 
worthy of a place in the memoirs of his life, as containing, may 
I not say, an evident prediction of events which have since 
taken place ? It is as follows 
" Rev. and dear Sirs, 

" I hope that while I lie by, like a broken vessel, the Lord 
continues to renew your vigour, and sends you to water his 
vineyard, and to stand in the gap against error and vice. I 
have recovered some strength, blessed be God, since I came to 
the Continent ; but have lately had another attack of my old 
complaints. However, I find myself better again, though I 
think it yet adviseable not to speak in public/ 

" I preached twice at Marseilles, but was not permitted to 
follow the blow. There are few noble, inquisitive Bereans in 
these parts. The ministers in the town of my nativity have 
been very civil. They have offered me the pulpit ; but I fear, 
if I could accept the offer, it would soon be recalled. I am 
loath to quit this part of the field without casting a stone at that 
giant, Sin, who stalks about with uncommon boldness. I shall, 
therefore, stay some months longer, to see if the Lord will 
please to give me a little more strength to venture an attack. 

% Gaming and dress, sinful pleasure and love of money, unbe- 
lief and false philosophy, lightness of spirit, fear of man, and 
love of the world, are the principal sins by which Satan binds 
his captives in these parts. Materialism is not rare ; Deism and 
Socinianism are very common ; and a set of free-thinkers, great 
admirers of Voltaire and Rousseau, Bayle, and Mirabeau, seem 
bent upon destroying Christianity and government. 6 With one 
hand (said a lawyer, who has written something against them) 
they shake the throne, and with the other they throw down the 

31 



2*2 



THE LIFE OP 



altars.' If we believe them, the world is the dupe of kings and 
priests. Religion is fanaticism and superstition. Subordina- 
tion is slavery and tyranny. Christian morality is absurd, un- 
natural, and impracticable ; and Christianity the most bloody 
religion that ever was. And here, it is certain, that by the exam- 
ple of Christians, so called, and by our continual disputes, they 
have a great advantage, and do the truth immense mischief. 
Popery will certainly fall in France, in this or the next century ; 
and I make no doubt, God will use these vain men to bring 
about a reformation here, as he used Henry the Eighth to do 
that work in England : so the madness of his enemies shall, at 
last, turn to his praise, and to the furtherance of his kingdom. 

" In the meantime it becomes all lovers of the truth to make 
their heavenly tempers, and humble peaceful love, to shine be- 
fore all men, that those mighty adversaries, seeing the good 
works of professors, may glorify their Father who is in heaven, 
and no more blaspheme that worthy name by which we are 
called Christians ? 

" If you ask, What system these men adopt ? I answer, that 
some build on Deism a morality founded on self-preservation, 
self-interest, and self-honour. Others laugh at all morality, 
except that, the neglect of which violently disturbs society ; and 
external order is the decent covering of Fatalism, while Mate- 
rialism is their system. 

" O dear Sirs, let me entreat you, in these dangerous days, to 
use your wide influence, with unabated zeal, against the scheme 
of these modern Celsuses, Porphiries, and Julians ; by calling 
all professors to think and speak the same things, to love and 
embrace one another, and to stand firmly embodied to resist 
those daring men ; many of whom are already in England, 
headed by the admirers of Mr. Hume and Mr. Hobbes. But it 
is needless to say this to those who have made, and continue to 
make such a stand for vital Christianity ; so that I have nothing 
to do but pray that the Lord would abundantly support and 
strengthen you to the last, and make you a continued comfort 
to his enlightened people, loving reprovers of those who might 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



243 



mix light and darkness, and a terror to the perverse ; and this is 
the cordial prayer of, Rev. and dear Sirs, your affectionate son. 
and obliged servant in the Gospel, 

J. F." 

" P. S. I need not tell you, Sirs, that the hour in which Pro- 
vidence shall make my way plain to return to England, to unite 
with the happy number of those who feel, or seek the power of 
Christian godliness, will be welcome to me. O favoured Bri- 
tons ! Happy would it be for them if they knew their Gospel 
privileges ! My relations in Adam are all very kind to me ; but 
the spiritual relations, whom God has raised me in England? 
exceed them yet. Thanks be to Christ, and to his blasphemed 
religion !" 

21. In a letter to Dr. Conyers, written from the same place, 
the day following, in which he mentions having sent him his 
Tract, called The Reconciliation, and urges him to labour to pro- 
mote peace and unanimity among the disciples of Christ, he 
adds, concerning the French infidels, " If you saw with what 
boldness the false philosophers of the Continent, who are the 
apostles of the age, attack Christianity, and represent it as one 
of the worst religions in the world, and fit only to make the pro- 
fessors of it murder one another, or at least to contend among 
themselves ; and how they urge our disputes to make the Gos- 
pel of Christ the jest of nations, and the abhorrence of all flesh ; 
you would break through your natural timidity, and invite all 
our brethren in the ministry, to do what the herds do on the 
Swiss mountains, when wolves attack them ; instead of goring 
one another, they unite, and form a close battalion, and face the 
common enemy on all sides. What a shame would it be, if 
cows and bulls showed more prudence, and more regard for 
union, than Christians and Gospel ministers !" 

22. Here he took leave of Mr. Ireland, and, in order to 
shorten his journey back to Nyon and enjoy new prospects, 
ventured to cross the mountains which separate France from 
Switzerland. This was of bad consequence. For " on the 



244 



THE LIFE Of 



third day of the journey," says he, " I found an unexpected 
trial : a large hill, whose winding roads were so steep, that 
though we fed the horses with bread and wine, they could 
scarcely draw the chaise, obliged me to walk in all the steepest 
places. The climbing lasted several hours, the sun was hot, I 
perspired violently, and the next day I spit blood again. I have 
chiefly kept to goats' milk ever since, and hope I shall get over 
this death also, because I find myself, blessed be God, better 
again, and my cough is neither frequent nor violent." 

23. In the former part of this year, (1778) a letter was writ- 
ten to the Rev. Mr. Perronet, informing him, that there was a 
valuable estate at his native place, which properly belonged to 
him, and which might easily be recovered, if he sent one of hi>« 
sons to claim it. All his friends whom he consulted on the oc- 
casion, judged this information was not to be slighted. And his 
youngest son, Mr. William Perronet, the surgeon and apothe- 
cary, frequently mentioned above, was willing to undertake the 
journey. But before he set out he wrote to Mr. Fletcher, de- 
siring his advice. Part of his answer was as follows : 

" Nyon, June 2, 1778. 
• : While 1 write to you to make your title clear to a precari- 
ous estate on earth : permit me to remind you of the heavenly 
inheritance entailed upon believers. The will (the New Tes- 
tament) by which we can recover it, is proved ; the court is 
equitable ; the Judge loving and gracious. To enter on the pos- 
session of part of the estate here, and of the whole hereafter, 
we need only to believe, and prove, evangelically, that we are 
believers. Let us set about it now with earnestness, with 
perseverance, and with full assurance, that through faith we 
shall infallibly carry our cause. Alas! what are estates or 
crowns, to grace and glory ? The Lord grant that we, and all 
our friends, may choose the better part, which your brother, my 
dear friend, so happily chose. And may we firmly stand to the 
choice, as he did, to the last. My best respects wait upon your 
dear father, your sisters, and nieces. Cod reward your kind- 
ness to me upon them all ! 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



245 



" This is a delightful country. If you come to see it, and 
claim the estate, bring all the papers and memorials your father 
can collect, and come to share a pleasant apartment, and one of 
the finest prospects in the world, in the house where I was born. 
I design to try this fine air some months longer. We have a 
fine shady wood, near the lake, where I can ride in the cool all 
the day, and enjoy the singing of a multitude of birds. But 
this, though sweet, does not come up to the singing of my dear 
friends in England. There I meet them in spirit several hours 
in the day. God bless my dear friends." 

A little after this he says to another friend : — " The birds of 
my fine wood have almost done singing ; but I have met with a 
parcel of children, whose hearts seem turned towards singing 
the praises of God, and we sing every day from four to five. 
Help us by your prayers. One of them received, I hope, the 
love of Christ this week." 

About the same time he wrote to Dr. Turner, as follows : 

" Should I gather strength, I should, under God, acknowledge 
you % dear Sir, as the instrument of that blessing, as you were 
above twenty years ago. Ten thousand thanks I render to you, 
Sir, and to Mr. Perronet, for your kind and generous care and 
attendance. May God reward you both, by bestowing upon you 
all the blessings which can make life happy, death comfortable, 
and eternity delightful and glorious ! May the richest cordials of 
divine love, and the Balm of Gilead, a Saviour's precious blood, 
revive your souls and comfort your hearts ! And in your every 
want and extremity, may you both find such tender helpers and 
comforters, as have been found in you by, dear Sir, your most 
obliged, though unworthy patient and servant, 

J. F." 

24. It appears by a letter of his , to Mr. Ireland, dated July 
15, that he continued to recover, and that he failed not to use 
his strength as fast as he gained it. " I have ventured," says he, 
" to preach once, and to expound once in the church. Our 
ministers are very kind, and preach to the purpose : a young 
one of this town gave us lately a very excellent Gospel sermon. 



'246 



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Grown up people stand fast in their stupidity, or in their sell- 
righteousness. The day I preached, I met with some children 
in my wood, walking, or gathering strawberries. — I spoke to them 
about our Father, our common Father. We felt a touch of bro- 
therly affection. They said they would sing to their Father, as 
well as the birds ; and followed me ; attempting to make such 
melody as you know is commonly made in these parts. I out- 
rode them, but some of them had the patience to follow me 
home, and said they would speak with me ; but the people of the 
house stopped them, saying, I would not be troubled with chil- 
dren. They cried, and said, They were sure I would not say so, 
for I was their good brother. The next day when I heard it, I 
inquired after them, and invited them to come to me ; which 
they have done every day since. I make them little hymns, 
which they sing. Some of them are under sweet drawings. 
Yesterday, I wept for joy, on hearing one of them speak of con- 
viction of sin, and joy unspeakable in Christ which had followed, 
as an experienced believer would do in Bristol. Last Sunday I 
met them in the wood ; there were 100 of them, and as many 
adults. — Our first pastor has since desired me to desist from 
preaching in the wood, (for I had exhorted) for fear of giving 
umbrage ; and I have complied, from a concurrence of circum- 
stances which are not worth mentioning : I therefore meet them 
in my father's yard. 

" In one of my letters I promised you some anecdotes, con- 
cerning the death of our two great philosophers, Voltaire and 
Rousseau. Mr. Tronchin, the physician of the Duke of Or- 
leans, being sent for to attend Voltaire in his illness at Paris, 
Voltaire said to him, < Sir, I desire you would save my life, I 
wiH give you the half of my fortune, if you will lengthen out 
my days only for six months. If not, I shall go to the devil, and 
shall carry you away along with me.' 

Rousseau died more decently, as full of himself as Voltaire 
was of the wicked one. He paid that attention to nature and 
the natural sun, which the Christian pays to grace and the Sun 
of Righteousness. These were some of his last words to his 
wife, which I copy from a printed letter circulating in these 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



247 



parts : c Open the window that I may see the green fields once 
more . — How beautiful is nature ! How wonderful is the Sun ! 
See what glorious light it sends forth ! It is God who calls me. 
How pleasing is death to a man who is not conscious of any sin ! 
O God ! my soul is now as pure as when it first came out of thy 
hands : crown it with thy heavenly bliss !' God deliver us from 
self and Satan, the internal and the external fiend. The Lord 
forbid we should fall into the snare of the Sadducees, with the 
former of these two famous men, or into that of the Pharisees 
with the latter. Farewell in Jesus. 

J. F." 

25. We may infer, I think, from these, and divers other ex- 
tracts of letters which appear in this work, under Mr. Fletcher's 
own hand, that the following account by Mr. Gilpin, is perfectly 
correct. " As during Mr. Fletcher's abode in England, his 
attachment to his absent countrymen was daily expressed in fer- 
vent prayer, and frequently in affectionate epistles addressed to 
those among them whose situation and abilities might have 
rendered them eminently useful to the church ; so when present 
with them, his affectionate concern for their happiness was evin- 
ced by the most indefatigable exertions for their advancement 
in religion and virtue. When he was, to all appearance, in 
dying circumstances, even in those seasons, the entreaties of 
friends, the advice of physicians, together with his bodily infir- 
mities, were found insufficient to restrain him from the exercise 
of his ministry. His manner of employing himself among them, 
is modestly expressed in an apology which he once thought it 
necessary to make for his conduct upon those occasions ; from 
which the following passage is extracted. 'Afflicted with a 
dangerous disease, and obliged to entrust the care of my church 
to a substitute, with the permission of my superiors, I came to 
this place on a visit to my kinsmen ; and especially for the pur- 
pose of breathing my native air, which the physicians, aftei 
having already exhausted their art in my favour, considered as 
the last remedy that remained to be tried with any hope of suc- 
cess. Upon my arrival, the pastors of Nyon, to the first of 



248 



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whom I have had the honour of being known for these six and 
thirty years, obligingly offered me the use of their pulpits, if my 
health should permit me to preach. But after appointing diffe - 
rent days, on which I hoped to have taken the advantage of their 
friendly offers, by repeated returns of my weakness, I was pre- 
vented from fulfilling my engagements. I have, however, 
preached three or four times : but observing in myself during 
those exercises, a want of strength to occupy the pulpit with 
that power and dignity, which are expected in a preacher who 
appears before a polished audience, I considered it rather as 
my duty, with the permission, and under the inspection, of our 
pastors, without ascending the pulpit, to give some familiar 
instructions to such children and others, as were disposed to re- 
ceive them ; offering in a room from time to time, occasional 
reflections, either upon some book of piety, or some passage of 
holy Scripture.' Such were his customary employments during 
his residence at Nyon. And to these pious exercises, he devo- 
ted his remaining strength with that assiduity and perseverance, 
which abundantly manifested how little he regarded either ease 
or health, when they came in competition with the advantage 
and welfare of his countrymen." 

26. But while he engaged himself with so much zeal in the 
service of his countrymen at large, among his kinsmen and 
friends his benevolent labours were still more abundant. He 
expressed the most vehement desires, and employed the most 
strenuous efforts, that the whole circle of his friends might be- 
come a people " fearing God, and working righteousness." He 
admonished them with the authority of a minister, and entreated 
them with the gentleness of a brother, mixing both his admo- 
nitions and entreaties with many affectionate tears. When he 
perceived in any of them an inclination to linger, either in the 
darkness of Deism, or in the mazes of dissipation, like the deli- 
verers of Lot, he would stretch out his hand, and endeavour, 
with a pious violence, to rescue them from the dangers to which 
they were exposed. And, on the other hand, when he disco- 
vered in any of his friends the least discernible tokens, either of 
godly sorrow, or of holy desire, he would give a loose to the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



fervours of that holy joy which is manifested on similar occa- 
sions in the presence of the angels of God, 

27. " But, perhaps, it is impossible to give any just idea 
of the extraordinary concern he expressed for the establish^ 
ment of his near relations in the faith of the Gospel, except 
in his own words. The following passages, translated from an 
epistle which he formerly addressed to his brother, the assessor, 
will set this amiable part of his disposition in a just point of 
view. After lamenting that he had passed so great a part of 
his own life in the vain pursuits of the world, he continues,— 
; And are you not constrained, my dear brother, to make the 
same lamentations with me? Yes, I cannot but indulge a 
hope that God will hear my prayers, that he will have some 
regard to the tears with which I wet this paper, and that, while 
you are reading these lines, his grace will operate upon your 
heart. If you did but know how much joy there would be in 
heaven for your conversion ; if you could but conceive what 
transports of gratitude would overflow your heart and mine ; 
if you were but sensible how my bowels are moved for you ; 
surely then, without a moment's delay, you would submit to 
the grace of that Saviour, who is even now speaking in your 
heart. And can you still hold out, my dear brother ? And are 
you so entire an enemy to your own happiness, so insensible, 
so hard, as to decline making a full surrender of yourself to 
God? I will hope better things of you, through the grace of 
our common Saviour. O may that grace overwhelm thy heart, 
and melt down all thy hardness ! — As we are of one blood, let 
us also be of one heart and one soul. Do not reject, I conjure 
you, my brotherly counsels and supplications. Do not refuse 
to come where so much felicity awaits you, because pressed 
to it by a person who is unworthy to bring you the invitation. 
We have passed our infancy and our youth beneath the same 
roof, and under the same masters. We have borne the same 
fatigues, and tasted the same pleasures. Why then should we 
be separated now ? Why should they be divided, who, by na- 
ture, habit, and friendship, have been so long united ? — I have 
undertaken a journey to the New Jerusalem : O suffer me not 

32 



Tab 



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to go thither alone. Let neither the fatigues, nor the length 
of the way, affright you. We shall be provided, even in the 
desert, with heavenly manna and streams of living water. 
God himself shall go before us as in a pillar of fire, and, under 
the protection of his wings, we may walk without fear, through 
the valley of the shadow of death, — Come then, my dear bro- 
ther ! I am most unwilling to leave you behind. Come ; sup- 
port me ; go before me ; encourage me ; show me the way ; I 
feel the want of a faithful companion and a Christian friend. Suf- 
fer me to throw myself at your feet, to embrace your knees, and 
to wasli them with the tears which are now streaming from mj 
eyes. I ask no part of your temporal possessions 5 but I entreat 
you to seek after an eternal inheritance. I desire neither your 
gold nor your silver : but I am anxious that you should share 
my joy. I am solicitous that you should accompany me to Mount 
Zion, to the city of the living God ; — that you should mix in that 
innumerable company of angels who worship there, and be 
counted in the general assembly and church of the first-born. 
In short, I am anxious, my dear brother, that you should come 
with me, to have your name written in the book of life, and 
be made free of that holy city, which shall one day descend 
from God out of heaven. I have a presentiment that you will, 
at last, submit to the easy yoke of Christ, and that, after you 
are converted, you will strengthen your brethren. Do not tell 
me again, that piety is usually the portion of younger brothers, 
since I read, in the Old Testament, that every first-born male 
should be consecrated, in a peculiar manner, to God. Let me 
rather entreat you to take the advantage of your situation. Be 
at least as far beyond me in piety, as you are in years ; and, 
instead of feeling any jealousy upon this account, my pleasure 
will be augmented in the great day of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
to see myself placed at your feet.' " 

These quotations may serve as a specimen of the manner 
in which Mr. Fletcher was accustomed to express his ardent 
desire, in different degrees, for the spiritual prosperity of hi* 
countrymen, his friends, and his brethren. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



251 



28. In the meantime, while Mr. Fletcher was thus labouring, 
even beyond his strength, according to the opportunity afforded 
him, to be useful to his own countrymen, he was not unmindful 
of his dear flock at Madeley. In a letter written about this time, 
among other important observations and advices, he says — " I 
am yet in the land of the living, to prepare, with you, for the 
land where there is life without death, praising without weari- 
ness of the flesh, and loving without separation. There, I once 
more challenge you to meet me, with all the mind that was in 
Christ ; and may not one hoof be left behind ! May there not 
be found one Demas among you, turning aside from the little 
flock and the narrow way, to love and follow this present, pe- 
rishing world. May there not be one Esau, who, for a frivolous 
gratification sold his birthright ; nor another wife of Lot, who 
looked back for the good things of the city of destruction, and 
was punished by a judgment almost as fearful as that of Anna- 
nias, Sapphira, and Judas. My dear companions, let us be con- 
sistent ; let us seek first the kingdom of God and his righteous- 
ness, and all other things, upon your diligent, frugal, secondary 
endeavours, shall be added unto you. Let us live daily, more and 
more, upon the free love of our gracious Creator and Pre- 
server, the grace and righteousness of our atoning Redeemer 
and Mediator, nor let us stop short of the powerful, joyous influ- 
ence of our Comforter and Sanctifier. 

" Bear me on your hearts, as I do you upon mine : and meet 
we all in the heart of Christ, who is the centre of our union, and 
our common head ; humbly leaving it to him, when and where, 
we shall meet again. Farewell in Christ till we meet in the 
flesh around his table, or in the spirit around his throne. I am 
your afflicted, comforted brother, 

J. F.'' 

July 18, He writes also to the Rev. Mr. Greaves, entrusted 
with the oversight of them, and observes, — " I trust you lay 
yourself out in length and breadth for the good of the flock com- 
mitted to your care. I should be glad to hear that all the flock 



258 



THE LIFE Of 



grow in grace, and that the little flock (those united in Chris- 
tian fellowship) grow in humble love. 

" Be pleased to read the following note in the church ; 6 John 
Fletcher begs a further interest in the prayers of the congrega- 
gation of Madeley ; and desires those who assemble to serve God 
in the church, to help him to return public thanks to Almighty 
God, for many mercies received ; especially for being able to do 
every day a little ministerial duty, which he considers as an 
earnest of the strength he should be glad to have, to come back 
soon, and serve them in the Gospel ; which he designs to do, 
please God, in some months. In the meantime he beseeches 
them, to serve God as Christians, and to love one another as 
brethren ; neglecting no means of grace, and rejoicing in all the 
hopes of glory.' 

" I hope, my dear brother, that you remember my request to 
you, in my letter from Dover ; and that you are glad of every 
possible help to do the people good. The harvest is great, the 
labourers are but comparatively few. Pray the Lord to send 
more labourers into his harvest 5 and rejoice when he sends us 
any who will help us to break up the fallow ground. My love 
to all our kind neighbours, and to the preachers, whom I beg 
you will thank in my name. 

" Be pleased, when you have an opportunity, to read the fol- 
lowing note to the societies at Madeley, Dawley, and the Banks : 

4 My dear Brethren, 
4 1 hope you have no need of a line to assure you of the con- 
tinuance of my brotherly love for you. We are called to grow 
in grace, and, consequently, in love, which is the greatest of all 
Christian graces. Your prayers for my soul and my body have 
not been without answer. Blessed be God! glory be to his 
rich mercy in Christ, I live yet the life of faith ; and as to my 
body, I recover some strength ; which rejoices me the more, as 
I hope a good Providence will make way for my laying it out, 
in inviting you to leave the things which are behind, and to 
press, with earnestness , unity, and patience, towards the mark of 



THE RIV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



253 



our heavenly calling in Christ. God bless you all, with all the 
blessings brought to the church by Christ Jesus, and by the other 
Comforter ! Fare ye all well in Jesus ; and remember, at the 
throne of grace, your affectionate brother and servant in Christ, 

J. F>' » 

29. Mr. Fletchers recovery, however, was but very slow. 
On the 1 5th of September following, we find him acknowledg- 
ing that he had " still very trying, feverish nights, and nothing 
but forced evacuations." He adds, however, " I am kept in 
peace of mind, resigned to God's will, who afflicts me for my 
good, and justly sets me aside for my unprofitableness. Well, 
though I am a bruised vessel, yet I rest on him. He does not 
break me ; yea, he comforts me on every side. His grace 
within and his people without, turn my trying circumstances 
into matter of praise." The reader will easily believe, that 
although he speaks thus, he was very far from being laid aside 
for his unprofitableness as a broken vessel. The very same day 
in which he uses that language, he writes as follows to Mr. 
Ireland : 

" My very dear Friend, 
" I am just returned from an excursion I made with my bro- 
ther, through the fine vale in the midst of the high hills, which 
divide France from this country. In that vale we found three 
lakes, one on French ground, and two on Swiss ; the largest is 
six miles long and two wide. It is the part of the coun- 
try where industry is most apparent, and where population 
thrives best. The inhabitants are chiefly woodmen, coopers, 
watchmakers, and jewellers. They told me they had the best 
singing, and the best preacher in the country. I asked if any 
sinners were converted under his ministry ? They stared, and 
asked, What I meant by conversion ? When I had explained 
myself, they said, ' We do not live in the time of miracles.' 

" I was better satisfied in passing through a part of the vale 
which belongs to the king of France. I saw a prodigious con- 
course of people, and supposed they kept a fair, but was agreea- 



254 



THE LIFE OF 



bly surprised to find three missionaries, who went about as iti- 
nerant preachers to help the regular clergy. They had been 
there already some days, and were three brothers, who preached 
morning and evening. The evening service opened by what 
they called a conference. One of the missionaries took the pul- 
pit, and the parish priest proposed questions to him, which he 
answered at full length and in a very edifying manner. The 
subject was the unlawfulness and the mischief of those methods 
by which persons of different sexes lay snares for each other, and 
corrupt each others' morals. The subject was treated^ with deli- 
cacy, propriety, and truth. The method was admirably well 
calculated to draw and fix the attention of a mixed multitude. 
This conference being ended, another missionary took the pul- 
pit. His text was our Lord's description of the day of judg- 
ment. Before the sermon, all those who for the press could 
kneel, did, and sung a French hymn, to beg a blessing upon the 
word 5 and indeed it was blessed. An awful attention was visi- 
ble upon most, and for a good part of the discourse, the voice 
of the preacher was almost lost in the cries and bitter wailings 
of the audience. When the outcry began, the preacher was 
describing the departure of the wicked into eternal fire. They 
urged that God was merciful, and that Jesus Christ had shed his 
blood for them. ' But that mercy you have slighted, (replies 
the Judge) and now is the time of justice ; that blood you have 
trodden under foot, and now it cries for vengeance. — Know 
your day, — slight the Father's mercy, and the Son's blood no 
longer.' I have seen but once or twice congregations as much 
affected in England. 

" One of our ministers being ill, I ventured a second time into 
the pulpit last Sunday ; and the Sunday before I preached six 
miles off to 2000 people in a gaol yard, where they were come 
to see a poor murderer two days before his^ execution. I was 
a little abused by the bailiff on the occasion, and refused the 
liberty of attending the poor man to the scaffold, where he was 
to be broken on the wheel. I hope he died penitent. The 



THE REV* JOHN FLETCHER. 



255 



day before he suffered, he said he had broken his irons, and that, 
as he deserved to die, he desired new ones to be put on, lest he 
should be tempted to make his escape a second time. 

" You ask, What I design to do ? I propose, if it be the 
Lord's will, to spend the winter here, to bear my testimony 
against the trade of my countrymen. 

" In the spring, I shall, if nothing prevent, return to England 
with you, or with Mr. Perronet, if his affairs are settled, or alone, 
if other ways fail. In the meantime I rejoice with you in 
Jesus, and in the glorious hope of that complete salvation his 
faithfulness has promised, and his power can never be at a 
loss to bestow. We must be saved by faith and hope, till we 
are saved by perfect love, and made partakers of heavenly 
glory. 

" I am truly a stranger here. Well then, as strangers, let us 
go where we shall meet the assembly of the righteous, gathered 
in Jesus. Farewell in him, you, and yours, 

J. F » 

30. In the latter end of the year, Mr. William Perronet set 
out for Switzerland. After a fatiguing journey, as he writes to 
his father, he arrived at Nyon, Dec. 1 1, and had the pleasure of 
finding Mr. Fletcher " in pretty good health, save some little 
weakness, and an inflammation in his eyes." In a letter he 
wrote from thence to Mr. Greenwood, he gives the following 
farther account of Mr. Fletcher. 

There is something in the beginning of his letter which is a 
little humorous but this the candid reader will easily excuse. 
It runs thus : 

" Dear Sir, 

" As you desire of me to send you some account of my jour- 
ney, now I am a little settled, I will do it in the best manner I 
am able. 

" I set out from London on Tuesday, November the 17th. 
We arrived at Dover about three on Wednesday morning; 



256 



THE LIFE OF 



embarked on Thursday ; and arrived at Calais in about three 
hours. 

" Though il was in war time, yet we did not meet with the 
least incivility, either here or in any part of France. But the 
badness of the inns makes the travelling through this country 
disagreeable. The rooms in general are so dirty, as to be fitter 
for swine than men. Each room, both above and below stairs, 
is provided with two, three, or four beds, and they are so high 
as to require steps to get up to them. For there is on each bed, 
first, a monstrous canvass bag, stuffed with a huge quantity of 
straw ; over this a feather bed, and on this as many mattresses as 
the host can furnish. But the worst is, the sheets are not damp, 
but rather downright wet. Yet the good woman would con- 
stantly scold us, if we attempted to dry them, even at our own 
fire ; insisting upon it that it was impossible they should be 
damp at all. 

" At table, every one is furnished with a spoon and a fork c 
but with no knives. And in general, they are not needful : for 
both flesh and vegetables are so stewed down, as to be properly 
termed spoon-meat. However, at the meanest inn, every one 
is provided with a clean napkin : and both after dinner and 
after supper, there is a fine desert of fruit. 

« We travelled early and late : yet having but one set of 
horses, we were a whole week in getting to Paris. In Paris all 
is gaiety and finery : but without the least idea of neatness. The 
scarcity of water is one excuse for the general want of cleanli- 
ness, both in their persons and houses. 

" On Tuesday, Dec. 8, we dined at Portallier ; the prettiest 
town in all France. The reason of which is, being burnt down 
some years ago, it was rebuilt by the late king. The next 
morning we entered Switzerland, stepping over a brook, which 
divides Switzerland from France. On the French side of the 
brook is a cross : on the other, a pillar with the arms of Swit- 
zerland. In the evening we arrived at Lausanne, a famous old 
town. Here I remained the next day, and on Friday, the 11th, 
went on to Nyon, where I had the pleasure of finding our dear 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



257 



friend, in pretty good health and spirits. Mr. Fletcher's house 
is a fine large building, agreeably situated. It is in the form 
of a castle, and is supposed to have been built five hundred 
years ago. 

" In passing through France, how bitterly did I regret the 
want of the Sunday service ! And it was not much better with 
me when I came into Switzerland. For I understood so little 
of their language that I could not profit much by the public ser- 
vice. Indeed this loss is in some measure made up by the com- 
pany and conversation of Mr. Fletcher : who, however engaged 
he is the greater part of the day, is generally so kind as to spend 
a little time with me in the evening in prayer and conversation. 

" His chief delight seems to be in meeting his little society of 
children. And as he is exceeding fond of them, they appear 
to be altogether as fond of him. He seldom either walks abroad 
or rides out, but some of them follow him ; singing the hymns 
they have learned, and conversing with him by the way. But 
you must not suppose that he is permitted to enjoy this happi- 
ness unmolested. Not only the drunkards make songs on him, 
and his little companions, but many of the clergy loudly com- 
plain of such irregular proceedings. However he is upon good 
terms with the three ministers of the place ; all of whom are 
not only serious men, but desirous of promoting true religion." 

31. In another letter, dated Dec. 31, 1778, he says, " Mr. 
Fletcher is better, I think, than when he left England, but he 
frequently puts his strength to too severe a trial, by meeting his 
little society, composed of children, and some grown persons : 
his frequent conferences with one or two serious ministers in 
this parish, and other exercises of a like nature ; and as soon as 
ever he ventures to preach, his spitting of blood returns. He 
has had a return of it once or twice since I have been here. 
Whenever this happens, his strength and spirits decay surpri- 
singly ; which he cannot in any wise recover but by lying by for 
some days." 

In* the same letter he observes, " Mr. Fletcher has taken the 
pains to translate all my papers into French, and his brother, 
who is a sensible worthy man, has assisted in that, and in con- 

33 



2j8 



THE LIFE OF 



suiting with the lawyers, and last of all, in drawing up a clear 
statement of the case, which he proposed laying before those 
gentlemen at Geneva who have taken possession of the estates. 
— Yesterday we all set out on this business to Chateau d'Oex. 
(the birth-place of the Rev. Mr. Perronet's father,) which is 
fifty-seven miles from hence, (Nyon,) and situated in the midst 
of the mountains : but before we got sixteen miles, the horse? 
were quite tired out, and the coachman, (for we are obliged to 
make all our journeys in a carriage, on account of the severity 
of the weather, absolutely refused to proceed any further ; so 
we rested at Morges, and returned home next day." 

32. A few days after, however, they attempted to reach that 
place again, and succeeded. The following description of their 
journey, given by the same intelligent and pious person, in a 
letter to his father, I doubt not, will be highly acceptable to the 
reader. 

" Chateau d'Oex, Jan. 11, 1779. 

" Honoured and dear Sir, 
" In my last letter I mentioned our intended journey to this 
place, where we arrived yesterday, through the good providence 
of God, without having met with any material accident. Neithei 
Mr. Fletcher, nor Mr. Monod (the lawyer,) whom we took with 
us, had ever before visited this northern region of their own 
country, so that the journey was as new to them as to myself. — 
It was no easy matter, at this season, to procure a guide ; how- 
ever, at last we agreed with one, and out we all set, (on the 7th 
of this month,) on a journey of near eighty miles across the Alps, 
(being obliged to go some leagues about, on account of the bad- 
ness of the ways,) passing in a coach over mountains of snow 
and rocks of ice ; till we came within nine miles of the place, 
when we were obliged to get into an open sledge, on account of 
the difficulty and danger attending the road. And now we tra- 
velled through narrow passes, cut through the snow, (which was 
many feet above our heads,) on the sides of mountains, whose 
summits the eye could scarce reach ; and frequently on the very 
brink of precipices, at the bottom of which we could hear the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



259 



waters roar like thunder, and could see it in some places rushing 
down the sides in torrents, and forming, in its passage, vast pil- 
lars of ice amongst the rocks. Here we were shown the place 
where a coach had lately fallen down ; and a little further, the 
spot where a native of Chateau d'Oex, but a few days before, 
was murdered, and then thrown down the precipice. We 
arrived at length at the town, where all the houses are built 
of wood, within and without, roofs, ceilings, chimnies, and 
all ; i. e. the enormous kitchen chimnies, for they have no other 
in any of their houses here. These being the whole size of 
the room, run up to a vast height, in the form of a steeple, with 
a number of cross bars, hung full of hams, tongues, &c. On 
the fronts of all the houses are carved, in large letters, the 
names of the persons who built them, the date, and some moral 
or religious sentence, with a prayer that the inhabitants may 
be preserved from pestilence, &c. 

" The town is situated on a small spot, amidst huge rocks 
and mountains piled one on the other, the heads of many 
©f which are often hid amongst the clouds. The slopes are 
beautifully adorned with lofty pines, whilst the enormous sides 
of others, are naked, craggy, and almost perpendicular. In 
the clefts and chasms of these, ten thousand such buildings as 
St. Paul's Church might be placed, and would appear but as 
so many trifling ornaments. For here all the works of nature, 
or rather of the God of nature, are terribly magnificent ; so 
that in viewing them, one cannot but admire and tremble at 
the same instant. 

" Nyon, Jan. 18. We stayed at Chateau d'Oex two days, 
when having finished the business we went upon, we set out, and 
arrived here last Friday, not much the worse for this uncomforta- 
ble and even dangerous journey ; however, both Mr. Fletcher and 
myself got a fall on the ice, in going to Chateau d'Oex, when 
we had left the sledge ; for in some places it is reckoned safer 
to walk than to ride, even in the sledge. Mr. Fletcher re- 
ceived a violent blow on the back part of his head, whilst I 
only sprained my wrist : to this I may add, that in crossing the 
Alps, we lay two nights in beds that were not only damp, but 



JbU 



THE LIFE OF 



quite musty, and without curtains. However, we had our own 
sheets, and so received no lasting injury. But being at this 
time in a Popish Canton, and Friday and Saturday being 
meagre days, we were almost starved with hunger as well as 
cold. 

" The weather here is extremely severe ; it is scarce in the 
power of clothes, or even fire, to keep one warm ; and the 
wolves begin to leave the forests, and to prowl about the towns 
and villages. Two of them, Mr. Fletcher tells me, were 
seen near this town the other day, one of which was killed by 
the country people. 

" Whether I succeed in my temporal business or not, I shall 
ever remember, with pleasure and thankfulness, the opportu- 
nities I have been blessed with of spending so much time in 
company with our inestimable friend ; who, wherever he goes, 
preaches the Gospel, both by his words and example ; nay, by 
his very looks, not only to his friends, but to all he meets with. 
So that on the top of the frozen Alps, and in the dreary vale of 
Chateau d'Oex, some good seed has been sown. 

" And here also he was visited by some of the principal 
inhabitants of the town ; who stood round him in deep atten- 
tion for almost an hour, while he both exhorted and prayed. 
I am, dear Sir, your very sincere friend and servant, 

William Perronet." 

Mr. Fletcher adds upon the paper on which the former letter 
is^ written, " Thanks to our kind Preserver, I am yet in the 
land of faith and hope, and want to find and make it a land 
of happiness and love. The Lord Jesus is alone sufficient for 
this. And till the great outpouring of his love be come, we 
ought faithfully to stir up the gift of God which is in ourselves 
and others, and to supply, by the depth of our humility, and 
the ardour of our expectation, what is yet wanting to our ex- 
perience. Well, God is good, Jesus is faithful, the Spirit is 
truth and love. Come, Lord ! and we shall experience the 
power of that God, who turns death to life, darkness to light, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



26 i 



weakness to strength ; and calleth the things that are not as 
though they were, 

33. Feb. 2. He gives the following account of the state of 
his health, and of his proceedings, to Mr. Ireland. " I am bet- 
ter, thank God, and ride out every day when the slippery roads 
will permit me to venture without the risk of breaking my 
horse's legs and my own neck. You will ask me how I have 
spent my time ? I answer, " I pray, have patience, rejoice, 
and write when I can ; I saw wood in the house when I cannot 
go out, and eat grapes, of which I have always a basket by 
me. Our little lord lieutenant has forbidden the ministers 
to let me exhort in the parsonage, because it is the sovereigns 
house. My second brother has addressed a memorial to him, 
in which he informs him, that he will give up neither his re- 
ligious nor civil liberty, and will open his house for the word of 
God ; and accordingly we have since met at his house. On 
Sunday we met at the young clergyman's, who, on his part, 
writes against the conduct of the clergy ; but I fear we fence 
against a wall of brass. However, I am quite persuaded that 
Providence calls me to leave a testimony to my French brethren, 
and it may be of some use when I shall be no more. I have 
been comforted by seeing the apology of a minister at Yverdon, 
who was persecuted in the beginning of this century, under the 
name of Pietist. I have got acquainted with a faithful minister 
of Geneva, but he dares no more offer me his pulpit, than my 
brother-in-law at Lausanne. 

" The Lord was not in the forwardness of the young man I 
mentioned. It was but a fire of straw ; and he has now avoided 
me for some weeks. Several young women seemed to have re- 
ceived the word in the love of it, and four or five more advanced 
in age ; but not one man, except the young hopeful clergyman 
I mention, who helps me at my little meetings, and begins to 
preach extempore. I hope he will stand his ground better than 
he, who was such an approver when you were here, and is now 
dying, after having drawn back to the world. 

" The truths I chiefly insist upon, when I talk to the people 
who will hear me, are those which I feed upon myself as my daily 



TH£ LIFE OF 



bread. — 1 God, our Maker and Preserver, though invisible, fa 
here and every where. He is our chief good, because all beauty 
and all goodness centre in and flow from him. He is especially 
love, and love in us, being his image, is the sum and substance 
of all moral and spiritual excellence, of all true and lasting bliss. 
In Adam, we are all estranged from love and from God ; but the 
second Adam, Jesus Emmanuel, God with us, is come to make 
us know and enjoy again our God, as the God of love and 
the chief good. All who receive Jesus, receive power to be- 
come the sons of God, &c. &c.' 

" I hope I shall be able to set out for England with Mr. Per- 
ronet in April or May. O that I may find that dear island in 
peace within and without ! Well, I hope you make peace in the 
church, if you cannot make peace with the patriots. God is a 
good God. Do you know, the coats and shoes you gave me 
have lasted all this while, and are yet good ? so that I need not 
draw upon your banker. Thank God and you for a thousand 
favours ! God bless and comfort you, my dear friend ! We are 
poor creatures, but we have a good God to cast all our burden's 
upon, and who often burdens us that we may have our constant 
and free recourse to his bounty, power, and faithfulness. Stand 
fast in the faith. Believe lovingly, and all will be welL 
Farewell. 

J. F.» 

A few days after he writes to the Rev. Mr. Perronet, in a 
postscript to his son's letter. " I have had the pleasure of ac- 
companying your son to your father's birthplace. It is a charm- 
ing country for those who have a taste for highland prospects ; 
but what is it to our heavenly Father's Hill of Sion? Thither 
may we all travel, summer and winter, and there may we all 
have a happy meeting, and find an eternal inheritance. Whe- 
ther you will obtain your earthly estate, in these parts in posses- 
sion, as it is yours by right, is yet to me matter of doubt. A 
little time, I hope, will decide the question : and as Providence 
will throw in the turning weight, it will be for the best, which 
way soever the affair ends. My friend is tolerably well, and, I 



"THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



263 



hope Providence will bring him back to you safe, more out of 
conceit with the vanity of earth ; and may we all be more in love 
with the blessings of heaven." 

34. It appears that, in the latter end of March, Mr. Fletcher's 
health was still but little improved. On the 29th of that month, 
his words to Mr. Perronet are : — " I am still weak in body, but 
able to ride out, and exhort some children, through divine mercy. 
Well ! the time shall come, when, in a better state, we shall be 
able to glorify our heavenly Father. In the meantime let us do 
it either in the stocks of weakness, or in the fires of tribulation. 
And on our death-bed may we sing, with an heart overflowing 
with humble love, 4 The Resurrection and the Life, the Friend 
and Saviour of sinners loved me and gave himself for me, and 
I am going to see and thank him face to face for his matchless 
love.' I hope the prospect, with respect to the inheritance of 
your fathers, in this country, clears up a little, and I trust the 
matter will be decided without a lawsuit. As soon as the affair 
is brought to some conclusion, we design to set out for England* 
The will of the Lord be done in all things.' 1 

35. But although Mr. Fletcher had hoped to be able to leave 
Switzerland, on his return to England, in April or May, and it 
seems had taken measures accordingly, he was constrained, by 
the entreaties of his friends, and such of the inhabitants as had 
received benefit by his labours, to prolong his stay among them. 
" I have complied," says he, May 18, to one of his parishioners, 
" with the request of my friends to stay a little longer, as it was 
backed by a small society of pious people gathered here. Three 
weeks ago, they got about me, and, on their knees, with many 
tears, besought me to stay till they were a little stronger, and 
able to stand alone ; nor would they rise till they had got me to 
comply. Happy would it be for us all, if we prayed as earnestly 
to Him, who can give us substantial blessings." 

It was not however, without reluctance, that he consented, in 
this instance, to the desire of his friends. The welfare of his 
flock at Madeley lay near his heart, and it gave him much un- 
easiness to be so long absent from them. On the same day that 
he wrote the above, he says to his curate, — " My departure 



1 



^64 THE LIFE OF 

being delayed some weeks gives me much concern, although 
from the confidence I have in your pastoral diligence, I am easy 
about the flock you feed. 

" There was last week a visitation held here, and the clergy 
of the town took my part against the visitor and others, who 
said, 4 1 was of a sect every where spoken against.' The con- 
versation about it held so long, and was so trying to my grain of 
humility, that I went out. The matter, however, ended peacea- 
bly, by a vote that they should invite me to dinner. God ever 
save us from jealous and persecuting zeal ! 

" I hope, my dear friend, you go on comfortably, doing more 
and more the work of a growing evangelist. Remember my love 
to all I mentioned in my last, to as many of my parishioners as 
you meet with, and especially to all our good neighbours, and to 
the society. — God bless you all ; and enable you to persevere in 
prayer for yourself, for the flock, (which I once more recom- 
mend to you, with the lambs, the children) and for your affec- 
tionate brother, 

J. F." 

36. On Good Friday, there being no service at Nyon, Mr. 
Fletcher and his friend crossed the lake into Savoy, in order to 
hear a celebrated Capuchin, who was to preach that day. " He 
made," Mr. Perronet observes, " a very good discourse ; and after- 
ward he and his brethren very civilly invited us to dine with 
them. This we declined, but after dinner paid our respects to 
them, when Mr. Fletcher spent two or three agreeable hours 
with them in serious and friendly conversation." 

It appears by the letter from which the above is copied, 
dated May 22, that Mr. Fletcher was then much better in 
health than he had been in March. On the 9th of that month, 
he had preached in the church, on 2 Cor. v. 20. " We are am- 
bassadors," &c. and had spoken with a strong and clear voice 
for above three quarters of an hour, and yet did not find him- 
self hurt by it. " Upon the whole," Mr. Perronet observes,, 
" he has preached four times in the church since I have been 
here, and might have preached much oftener, if hie health 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



265 



would have allowed him ; for by his friendly and prudent con- 
duct towards the three ministers of the place, he is upon good 
terms with them now, although at his first coming hither they 
were afraid to own him, on account of his irregular conduct ; 
for such they deemed his exhorting the children and holding 
meetings in private houses.'' In the afternoon of the day last- 
mentioned he met with a merciful deliverance. He was riding 
out for the benefit of the air, when his horse fell down as if he 
had been shot, and cut both his knees, and even his head in a 
terrible manner. Mr. Fletcher, however, providentially escaped 
without the least hurt. 

Mr. Fletcher adds the following words in Mr. William Perro- 
Ret's letter to his father, of May 2 C 2 : 

" My very dear Brother, and honoured Father, 
" I rejoice that you are yet preserved to be a witness of Jesus's 
grace and saving health. Let us rejoice^ that when our strength 
shall decay, his will remain entire for ever ; and in his strength, 
we who take him for our life, shall be strong. Our Redeemer 
liveth, and when sickness and death shall have brought down 
our flesh to the earth, we shall, by his resurrection's power, rise 
and live for ever with him in heavenly places. For the new 
earth will be a heaven, or a glorious province of the kingdom of 
heaven. With it we shall be restored to paradisiacal beauty, 
and filled with righteousness. Well : the meek shall inherit it, 
and that inheritance shall be fairer than yours at Chateau 
d'Oex, and surer too. I hope to accompany your son soon to 
England. Let us all move towards our one heavenly country, 
by Christ, who is the only way ; a way strait, sure, luminous, 
and where the wayfaring man, though a fool, will have more 
wisdom than all the teachers of the mere letter, 

J. F." 

Two days after he writes to Mr. Greenwood thus : "I am 
yet alive, able to ride out, and now and then to instruct a few 
children. I hope Mr. Perronet will soon have settled his 
affairs, and then, please God, I shall inform you, by word of 

34 



I. 4 



266 



THE LIFE OF 



mouth, how much I am indebted to you, Mrs. Greenwood, and 
Mrs. Thornton. I know it so much the more now, as I have 
made trial of the kindness of my relations in Adam ; those in 
Christ exceed them as far, in my account, as grace does nature. 
Thank and salute them earnestly from me, and to those of your 
own household, please to add Messrs. John and Charles Wesley, 
Dr. Coke, &c. That the Lord would fill you with his choicest 
blessings, as you have done me, is, my dear friend, the earnest 
prayer of your poor pensioner, 

J. F. 

" P. S. Mr. Perronet wants me to fill up his letter. I would 
gladly do it, but at this time, a sleepless night, and a constant 
toothach, unfit me for almost any thing, but lying down under 
the cross, kissing the rod, and rejoicing in hope of a better 
state, in this world or in the next. But perhaps weakness and 
pain are the best for me in this world. Well, the Lord will 
choose for me, and I fully set my heart and seal to his choice* 
Let us not faint in the day of adversity. The Lord tries us, 
that our faith may be found purged from all the dross of self- 
will, and may work by that love which beareth all things, and 
thinketh evil of nothing. Our calling is to follow the Crucified, 
and we must be crucified with him, until body and soul know the 
power of his resurrection, and pain and death are done away." 

38. In the same spirit, and about the same time, he says to 
another friend, " Let us bear with patience the decays of nature : 
let us see, without fear, the approach of death. We must put 
off this sickly corruptible body, in order to put on the immortal 
and glorious garment. 

" I have some hopes that my poor sister will yet be my sister 
in Christ. Her self-righteousness, I trust, breaks as fast as her 
body. I am come hither to see death make havoc among my 
friends. I wear mourning for my father's brother, and for my 
brother's son. The same mourning will serve me for my dying 
sister, if I do not go before her. She lies on the same bed where 
my father and mother died, and where she and 1 were born. How 
feeafc is life to death ' but, blessed be God, Christ, the rcsurrec- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



267 



tion, is nearer to the weak, dying believer ! Death works through 
the body, and the resurrection through the soul : and our soul is 
our real self." 

39. July 18, he writes : — " Providence is still gracious to me, 
and raises me friends on all sides. May God reward them all, 
and may you have a double reward for all your kindness. I hope 
I am getting a little strength. The Lord has blessed to me a spe- 
cies of black cherry, which I have eaten in large quantities. 
For a fortnight past I have catechised the children of the town 
every day ; and I do not find much inconvenience from that exer- 
cise. Some of them seem to be under sweet drawings of the 
Father, and a few of their mothers begin to come, and desire 
me, with tears in their eyes, to stay in this country. They urge 
much my being born here ; and I reply, that as I was born again 
in England, that is, of course, the country which to me is the 
dearer of the two. My friends have prevailed on me to pub- 
lish a Poem on the Praises of God, which I wrote many years 
ago. The revising it for the press is at once a business and a 
pleasure, which I go through on horseback. Help me by your 
prayers, to ask a blessing on this little attempt ; and may the 
God of all grace, who deserves so much our praises for the 
unspeakable gift of his dear Son, give us such a spirit of 
thankful praise, that we may bless and praise him, as David 
did formerly." 

40. In the beginning of September Mr. William Perronet 
wrote a little further account of him : " Mr. Fletcher has been 
wont to preach now and then, in the church here, (Nyon) at 
the request of one or other of the ministers. But some time 
ago he was summoned before the Seigneur BalifF, who sharply 
reprehended him for preaching against Sabbathbreaking and 
stageplays. The former, he said, implied a censure on the 
magistrates in general, as if they neglected their duty. And 
the latter he considered as a personal reflection on himself^ 
he having just then sent for a set of French comedians to 
Nyon. Accordingly, he forbade Mr. Fletcher to exercise any 
more, any of the functions of a minister in this country. How- 
ever, one of the ministers here has given him a room in hi* 



268 



Tilt Lirii OF 



own house to preach in. Here Mr. Fletcher meets a few 
serious persons, particularly a number of children, two or 
three times a week. And hitherto his lordship has not thought 
proper to interfere with respect to this mode of exhortation. 
And both the number and the seriousness of the congregation 
increase daily." 

Some time after Mr. Fletcher speaks of this as follows : — 
" Our lord lieutenant, being stirred up by some of the clergy, 
and believing firmly that I am banished from England, took, 
the alarm, and forbade the ministers to let me exhort in their 
houses 5 threatening them with the power of the senate if they 
did. They all yielded, but are now ashamed of it. A young 
clergyman, a true Timothy, has opened me his house, where I 
exhort twice a week ; and the other clergymen, encouraged 
by his boldness, come to oht meetings." 

41. According to Mr. Perronet, the minister by whom the 
opposition was begun, died suddenly, soon afterward, as he 
was dressing to go to church. " But this awful providence," 
adds he, " has had so little effect, that the clergyman who suc- 
ceeds him has likewise publicly opposed Mr. Fletcher : who now 
thinks himself obliged, before he leaves his native country, to 
bear a public testimony to the truth." He seems to mean 
chiefly by zoriting : for he observes in the same letter : "Mr. 
Fletcher is engaged in writing something for the edification of his 
friends in this country ; but when it will be finished I cannot 
say ; for it multiplies daily under his fertile pen ; so that I fear 
we shall be obliged to spend another winter in this severe 
climate." 

42. It appears by sundry letters which passed between Mr. 
Fletcher and Mr. William Perronet, (who was then at Lau- 
sanne,) w hich letters are now before me, that during a part of 
this month Mr. Fletcher was much afflicted by a rheumatic 
pain, which had settled on his loft shoulder, and had been so 
severe as to deprive him of sleep, and almost to cripple him. 
However, says he, " I find it a good goad to make me go to 
the Spring of help, health, and comfort." A fortnight after, 
(Nov. 18.) he says: — "Thank God I have partly recovered 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



369 



the use of my shoulder, though it is still very weak. I drink 
a decoction of pine-apple, from the tree, which is as warm as 
guaiacum. My writing does not go on : but the will of the 
Lord is done, and that is enough. I would press you to come 
back soon, if I were not persuaded you are better where you 
are. I have been afraid our bad meat here would make you 
lose, your flesh, and, for the honour of Switzerland, I should 
be glad you had some to carry back to England, if we live to 
go and see our friends there." 

Dec. 2, he says : " I have recovered the use of my arm, 
blessed be God. But I see the Lord will not use me in this 
country for good. [The Lord certainly used him more than 
he was aware.] and when we shall have done our little matters^ 
I shall be glad to go to my spiritual friends, and to my flock. 
The -Lord direct us in all things* Oh! for quietness and 
English friends !" 

. 43. " I believe," says Mr. Wesley, " it was about this time 3 
that a remarkable passage occurred, which was related to me 
some years ago. I may possibly have forgot some circum- 
stances : but the substance of it was this. Mr. Fletcher having 
heard of a minister in the country, as an eminently pious man, 
had a great desire to see him, and for that purpose, one morn- 
ing set out very early. When he had walked several miles, he 
saw a great crowd gathered together at the door of a house, 
lie asked, What was the matter ? And was answered, u A poor 
woman and a child lie a dying. 1 ' He went in, and found a wo- 
man who had not long been delivered, in appearance very near 
death. Little better was the case of the infant, which was con- 
vulsed from head to foot. The room was filled with people. 
He took occasion to show them, from that melancholy spectacle, 
the dreadful effects of sin : and afterward spoke largely of the 
miserable state we are all in through the sin of our first parents. 
Me then expatiated on the second Adam, and the blessings we 
may receive through him : adding, ' He is able to raise the 
dead ! He is able to save you all from sin, as well as to save 
these two poor objects from death. Come, let us ask him to 
save both us and them,' He found remarkable liberty in prayer. 



THE LIFE OF 



Presently the child's convulsions ceased ; and the mother was 
easy, lively, and strong. The people were utterly amazed, and 
stood speechless and almost senseless ! While they were in this 
state he silently withdrew. When they came to themselves, he 
was gone. Many of them asked, 6 Who it could be?' and some 
said, 4 Certainly it was an angel.' " 

44. The following letter written to a nobleman in this king- 
dom, and dated Nyon, Dec. 15, 1779, is well worth inserting 
here, both because it shows Mr. Fletcher's opinion on a great 
political question, which was warmly debated in England at that 
time, and because it contains other important information. 

" My Lord, 

" If the American Colonies and the West India Islands are 
rent from the crown, there will not grow one ear of corn the 
less in Great Britain. We shall still have the necessaries of 
life, and what is more, the Gospel, and liberty to hear it. If the 
great springs of trade and wealth are cut off, good men will bear 
that loss without much sorrow •, for springs of wealth are always 
springs of luxury, which, sooner or later, destroy the empires 
corrupted by wealth. Moral good may come out of our losses j 
I wish you may see it in England. People on the Continent 
imagine they see it already in the English on their travels, who 
are said to behave with more wisdom, and less haughtiness, than 
they were used to do. 

" Last year saw the death of three great men of these parts 
— Rousseau, Voltaire, and Baron Haller, a senator of Berne. 
The last, who is not much known, I think, in England, was a 
great philosopher, a profound politician, and an agreeable poet : 
but he was particularly famous for his skill in botany, anatomy, 
and physic. He has enriched the republic of letters by such a 
number of publications in Latin and German, that the catalogue 
of them is alone a pamphlet. 

" This truly great man has given another proof of the truth 
of Lord Bacon's assertion, that, 6 although smatterers in philo- 
sophy are often impious, true philosophers are always religious.' 
I have met with an old, pious ; apostolic clergyman, who was 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



271 



ultimate with the baron, and used to accompany him over the 
Alps, in his rambles after the wonders of nature, 1 With what 
pleasure,' said the minister, 5 did we admire and adore the wis- 
dom of the God of nature, and sanctify our researches by the 
sweet praises of the God of grace !' 

" When the emperor passed this way, he stabbed Voltaire to 
the heart, by not paying him a visit ; but he waited on Haller, 
was two hours with him, and heard from him such pious talk, 
as he never heard from half the philosophers of the age. The 
baron was then ill of the disorder which afterward carried him 
off. 

" Upon his death-bed he went through sore conflicts about 
his interest in Christ ; and sent to the old minister, requesting 
his most fervent prayers, and wishing him to find the way 
through the dark valley smoother than he found it himself. 
However, in his last moments he expressed a renewed confi- 
dence in God's mercy, through Christ, and died in peace. The 
old clergyman added, that he thought the baron went through 
this conflict to humble him thoroughly, and perhaps to chastise 
him for having sometimes given way to a degree of self-compla- 
cence at the thought of his amazing parts, and of the respect 
they procured him from the learned world. He was obliged to 
become last in his own eyes, that he might become first and 
truly great in the sight of the Lord. I am, my Lord, &c. 

J. F:V 

45. Mr. Fletcher's concern for the spiritual good of his flock, 
would not suffer him to rest many weeks without inquiring after 
their welfare. On Christmas day he writes to Mr. Greaves ; 
" Though absent in body, I am with you and the flock in the 
spirit. You are now at the Lord's table :— -0 ! may all the 
dear souls you have just now preached to, receive Jesus Christ 
in the pledge of his dying love : and go home with this lively 
conviction, ' God has given me eternal life, and this life is in his 
Son. He that hath the Son hath life : J have the Son, / have 
life, even eternal lifef 



272 



THE LIFE OF 



" Glory be to God in heavp.n ! Peace on earth! .Love and 
good will every where ; but especially in the spot where Provi- 
dence has called us to cry, Behold ! what manner of love the 
Father has testified to us, in Jesus, that we, children of wrath, 
should be made children of God, by that only begotten Son of 
the Most High, who was born for our regeneration, crucified for 
our atonement, raised for our justification, and now triumphs in 
heaven for our full redemption, and for our eternal glorification. 
To him be glory for ever and ever ; and may all, who fear and 
love him about you, say for ever, Amen ! Hallelujah ! 

" Out of the fulness of my heart I invite them to do so ; but 
how shallow is my fulness to his ! What a drop to an ocean with- 
out bottom or shore ! Let us, then, receive continually from him, 
who is the overflowing, and ever present source of pardoning, 
sanctifying, and exhilarating grace ; and from the foot of the 
Wrekin, where you are, to the foot of the Alps, where I am, let 
us echo back to each other, the joyful, thankful cry of the primi- 
tive Christians, (which was the text here this morning) Out of 
his fulness we have all received grace for grace. 

" I long to hear from you and the flock. Answer this and my 
last together ; and let me know, that you cast joyfully you "bur- 
dens on the Lord. 

" Give my kind pastoral love to all my people in general, and 
to all who fear God, and love Jesus, and the brethren in particu- 
lar. May all see, and see more abundantly, the salvation of 
God. May national distress be sanctified unto them ; and may 
they all be loyal subjects of the King of kings, and of his 
anointed, our king. May the approaching new year be to them 
a year of peace and Gospel grace. That you and the flock may 
fare well in Jesus, is the hearty prayer of yours, 

J. F." 

March 7, 1780, he says again: — "J long to hear from you. 
I hope you are well, and grow in the love of Christ, and of the 
gouls bought with his blood, and committed to your care. May 
you have the comfort of bringing them all into the pastures of 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



273 



the Gospel, and seeing them thrive under your pastoral care. 
I recommend to your care the most helpless of the flock, — I 
mean the children and the sick. They most want your help, and 
they are the most likely to benefit by it ; for affliction softens 
the heart ; and children are nor yet quite hardened through the 
deceitfulness of sin. 

" I beg you will not fail, when you have opportunity, to re- 
commend to our flock to honour the king, to study to be quiet, 
and to hold up, as much as lies in us, the hands of the govern- 
ment by which we are protected. Remember me kindly to Mr. 
Gilpin, and to all our parishioners. God give you peace by all 
means, as, in his mercy, he does to your affectionate friend and 
fellow-labourer, 

J. F.' 5 

Thus we see Mr. Fletcher was a good subject, as well as a 
good Christian, and was as attentive to his duty to his king and 
country as to his God. Indeed these virtues cannot be sepa- 
rated. They that attempt to separate them only show that they 
are properly possessed of neither. 

46. In what has already been related, we have had ample and 
continual evidence of the spirituality of Mr. Fletcher's mind, 
and of the fervour and elevation of his piety. We may also 
observe, in several of his letters, and in all his intercourse with 
his friends, and others, the most manifest proofs of the greatest 
integrity, and most strict justice. The following paragraph, 
among others that might be produced, appearing in a letter now 
before me, written to one of his parishioners at this time, is a 
striking instance of this. 

. Referring to a building which he had erected in Madeley 
Wood for a school, and for the accommodation of those of his 
parishioners who wished to assemble to receive the word of ex- 
hortation on the evening of the Lord's day, and of some other 
days of the week, he says : " I am sorry the building has come 
to so much more than I intended : but, as the mischief is done, 
it is a matter to exercise patience, resignation, and self-denial j 
and it will be a caution in future. I am going to sell part of my 



274 



THL LIFE OF 



little estate here to discharge the debt. I had laid by fifty 
pounds to print a small work, which I wanted to distribute here ; 
but as I must be just, before I presume to offer that mite to the 
God of truth, 1 lay by the design, and shall send that sum to Mr. 
York, Money is so scarce here at this time, that I shall sell at 
a very great loss ; but necessity and justice are two great laws 
which must be obeyed. As I design, on my return to England, 
to pinch until I have got rid of this debt, I may go and live in 
one of the cottages belonging to the vicar, if we could let the 
vicarage for a few pounds ; and in that case, I dare say, Mr. 
Greaves would be so good as to take the other little house." 

It appears, however, by some of his subsequent letters, that 
his friend Mr. Ireland (always a friend in need !) having heard 
of it, stepped forward unknown to him, and discharged the 
greatest part of this debt for him. This letter, however, he 
cannot conclude without giving his friend some spiritual advice. 
" My dear friend," adds he, " let us die unto sin, hold fast Jesus, 
the way, the truth, and the life, walk by faith in him, and not 
by the sight and passions of the old Adam. I hope the sun of 
affliction, which burns poor England and us, will ripen us all for 
glory. Give my best love to all our friends in Christ, and tell 
them that the hope of seeing them does me good, and that I trust 
they will not turn it into bitterness ; the which would be the case, 
if I should rind them out of the narrow way, and out of the king- 
dom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Lord." 

47. The reader will observe that till about the close of the 
preceding year, (the year 1779) Mr. Fletcher and Mr. William 
Perronet had generally lodged in one house in Nyon. But, 
about the beginning of this year, (1780) they were obliged to 
be separated. Of this Mr. Perronet speaks to his father thus, 
in July following. 

" I think it was about half a year ago that we broke up house 
keeping at Nyon. Poor dear Mr. Fletcher with difficulty pro 
cured a miserable lodging in the neighbourhood, and I was 
obliged to go to Lausanne, which is seven leagues from Nyon. 
I submitted the more willingly to this, as at that time he talked 
of spending some time at Lausanne. But, though I hate been 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



,275 



disappointed in this respect, I have had the pleasure of seeing 
him once or twice at Nyon. I found him to-day sitting in his 
small apartment, surrounded with books and papers, writing, or 
as he expressed it, 1 finishing' the first part of one of his pieces ; 
so, when the whole is likely to he concluded one cannot pretend 
to say." 

48. Mr. Fletcher had intended leaving Nyon in September next 
ensuing, in order to return to England ; but he then unexpectedly 
met with two hinderances. — One was, that when he came to 
collect the different parts of the manuscript, just referred to, 
which he had designed to print and distribute before he left the 
country, he found the greatest part of it wanting, a*nd after very 
many searches he was obliged to write it over again.* This 
event obliged him to delay his journey some weeks. Secondly, 
change of weather brought back some symptoms of his disorder^ 
insomuch that he spoke, or even whispered, with difficulty. He 
began however to eat grapes plentifully, as he had done the two 
preceding autumns, (his own little vineyard having produced an 
astonishing quantity in the latter of those years,) and it ap- 
pears they became, through the divine blessing, the chief mean 
of his restoration. Add to this, his friend Mr, Ireland urged, 
that if he returned to England at that season of the year, in all 
probability the winter would undo all that he and his friends had 
been doing for the restoration of his health, for many years, 
" However," says he to Mr. Greaves, Sept. 15, after mentioning 
the above circumstances, " I have not quite laid aside the design 
of spending the winter at Madeley ; and I am, at least, firmly 
purposed that, if I do not set out this autumn, I will do so, God 
willing, next spring as early as I can. Till I had this relapse I 

* Mr. Fletcher himself, in a letter to Mr. William Perronet, dated Sept. 20, 
speaks of this as follows : " The misfortune I hint at in my French letter, is the 
mislaying of a considerable part of my manuscript. After a thousand searches, 
giving it up as lost, I fell to work again ; went through the double toil, and when 
I had done, last night, I accidentally found what I had mislaid. This has thrown 
me back a great deal. The Lord's will be done in all things. I thank God, [ 
have been kept from fretting on the occasion ; though I would not, for a great 
deal, have such another trial." 



276 



f HE LIFE 01' 



was able, thank God, to exhort in a private room three times a 
week : but the lord lieutenant will not allow me to get into a 
pulpit, though they permit the schoolmasters, who are laymen, 
to put on a band, and read the church prayers : so high runs the 
prejudice. The clergy, however, tell me, that if I will renounce 
my ordination, and get Presbyterian orders among them, they 
will allow me to preach ; and on these terms one of the minis- 
ters of this town offers me his curacy. A young clergyman of 
Geneva, tutor to my nephew, appears to me a truly converted 
man ; and he is so pleased when I tell him there are converted 
souls in England, that he will go over with me to learn English, 
and converse with the British Christians. He wrote last sum- 
mer with such force to some of the clergy, who were stirring up 
the fire of persecution, that he made them ashamed, and we 
have since had peace from that quarter. 

" There is little genuine piety in these parts : nevertheless 
there is yet some of the form of it, so far, that they go to the 
Lord's table regularly four times a year. There meet the adul- 
terers, the drunkards, the swearers, the infidels, and even the 
materialists. They have no idea of the double damnation that 
awaits hypocrites. They look upon partaking that sacrament 
as a ceremony enjoined by the magistrate. At Zurich, the first 
town of this country, they have lately beheaded a clergyman, 
who wanted to betray his country to the emperor, to whom it 
chiefly belonged. It is the town of the great reformer Zuing- 
lius : yet there they poisoned the sacramental wine a few years 
ago. Tell it not in Gath ! I mention this to show you that 
there is occasion and great need to bear a testimony against the 
faults of the clergy here ; and if I cannot do it from the pulpit, 
I must try to do it from the press. Their canons, which were 
composed by two hundred and thirty pastors, at the time of the 
reformation, are so spiritual and apostolic, that I design to tran- 
slate them into English, if I am spared. 

" Farewell, my dear brother. Take care, good, constant care, 
of the flock committed to your charge, especially the sick and 
the young. Salute all our dear parishioners. Let me still have 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



277 



a part in your prayers, public and private ; and rejoice in the 
Lord, as, through grace I am enabled to do in all my little tribu- 
lations. 

J, F." 

49. To another friend in his parish, he writes the same day ? 
" You see by my letter to Mr. Greaves, that I am in good hopes 
of seeing you, at the latest, next spring. I have been so well, 
that my friends here thought of giving me a wife ; but what 
should I do with a Swiss wife at Madeley ? I want, rather, an 
English nurse, but more still, a mighty Saviour ; and thanks be 
to God that I have one. Help me to rejoice in that never-dying, 
never-moving Friend." 

To the pious of his parish, and the neighbourhood formed 
into religious societies, he says at the same time : "I am 
still in a strait between the work which Providence cuts out 
for me here, and the love which draws me to you. When I 
shall have the pleasure of seeing you, let it not be embittered by 
the sorrow of finding any of you half-hearted and lukewarm. 
Let me find you all strong in the Lord, and increased in humble 
love. Salute from me all that followed with us fifteen years ago. 
Care still for your old brethren. Let there be no Cain among 
you, no Esau, no Lot's wife. Let the love of David and Jona- 
than, heightened by that of Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and our 
Lord, shine in all your thoughts, your tempers, your words, your 
looks, and your actions. If you love one another, your little 
meetings will be a renewed feast ; and the God of love, who is 
peculiarly present where two or three are gathered together in 
the name of Jesus, and in the spirit of love, will abundantly 
bless you. Bear me still upon your breasts in prayer, as I do 
you upon mine ; and rejoice with me, that the Lord who made, 
redeemed, and comforts us, bears us all upon his. I am yours, 
in him, J. F." 

50. In consequence of information received about this time 
from Mr. Ireland, that he and his family purposed spending the 



278 



JHE LIFE OF 



ensuing winter in the South of France, which, notwithstanding 
the war, they had obtained leave to do, and even to go any where, 
save to a sea-port, Mr. Fletcher writes to his friend, Mr. 
William Perronet, thus : — " If you will go and join Mr. Ireland, 
I should be glad to do it, for the stream under my house pre- 
vents it from being very wholesome. I am, however, better of 
my cold, thank God. My brother thinks you may conclude 
[referring to the matters in dispute between him and the co- 
heirs] upon the terms you mention. c Better a dinner of herbs 
with peace, than a stalled ox and noise therewith.' I hope to 
go to Lausanne immediately after vintage, to offer a manu- 
script to the censors, to see if they will allow of its being 
published :* so I don't invite you to come and share my damp 
bed. My sister was so kind as to look for another house, but 
could find none to let for a less term than that of a year. We are 
here travellers, so we must expect some difficulties and a great 
many inconveniencies. ' 

51. Soon afterward, this amiable and excellent man, like 
several of his other brothers, who died young, fell into a very poor 
state of health. Dec. 5, following, Mr. Fletcher writes to the 
Rev. Mr. Vin. Perronet thus : — " Our wise and good God 
sees fit to try my dear friend, your son, with a want of appetite 
and uneasiness in his bowels, which makes him often return 
the little food he takes. He came some time ago hither from 
Lausanne, and we went to Geneva together, where we settled 
your affair with three of the Geneva co-heirs, upon the same 
footing he had settled with those of Chateau d'Oex. When 
my friend shall be a little better, he will give you a more particu- 
lar account. He bears his weakness with so much patience and 
resignation, that my sister-in-law (who is an English woman) is 
quite edified." 

* Such was, and I believe still ig, the liberty of the press in Switzerland, al- 
though judged one of the freest countries in the world ! ! A blessed instance, 
like that above-mentioned respecting the arbitrary and persecuting measureS- 
of the Seigneur Baliff, of republican liberty ! Who would not wish for the 
sam» in England ! 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



279 



On the same paper Mr. Perronet writes : — " I have been 
here near two months, and most part of the time (so it has 
pleased God) in much pain and weakness. — The irregularity 
and severity of the climate, added to the fatigue and distress 
I have undergone, have greatly impaired my health. But I 
desire to submit to the will of the Lord, knowing that it is 
better to fall into his hands, than into the hands of man. I 
am with Mr. Fletcher's relations, who are extremely kind to 
me." 

On Jan. 22, 1781, he writes ; — " I continue under such weak- 
ness, and am frequently in such great pain, as to my stomach 
and bowels, attended at times with such violent fits of vomit- 
ing, that I am at present but little able to undertake the jour- 
ney Mr. Ireland so earnestly presses on Mr. Fletcher and my- 
self, to join him in the South of France. I know what it is 
to travel in this country, and in France, in the depth of winter. 
— We have bad roads, cold, wet, uncomfortable inns, frequently 
a want of the most common necessaries : and, I might add, 
sometimes even damp beds ; which would ill suit either me or 
Mr. Fletcher. 1 have the greatest reason to be thankful for 
the kindness I have met with from dear Mr. Fletcher and his 
brother's family, as well as from my friends at this place. I 
have nothing to regret here, but the loss of Mr. Fletcher's 
company, who used to be much with me, and who would have 
sat up with me at night, had I consented to it. After praying 
with me on an evening, he used constantly to repeat, or rather 
sing this verse at parting, 

' Then let our humble faith address 
His mercy, and his power : 
We shall obtain deliv'ring grace 
In the distressing hour.* 

In another letter to his father, Feb. 6, he says: — "Mr. 
Fletcher is scarce recovered from a severe fit of the rheumatism 
and I continue so extremely weak, that we shall hardly be able 
to accomplish our wish," respecting joining Mr. Ireland, and re- 
turning to England. But on the 10th of February, Mr. Perro- 



280 



iHE LIFE OF 



net's affair being ended, Mr. Fletcher observes to him, « Your 
call to England seems quite clear now ; nor is mine less clear. 
My friend Ireland urges me to join him. I will venture 
upon a visit to the South of France, with you, if you can bear the 
journey. We should go south by Lyons, and come back to Paris, 
through the heart of the kingdom. He says they are as quiet as 
if it were peace. 

" I find, by letters from thence, I am wanted in my parish for 
particular reasons. So necessity draws me, and my promises 
drive me. I finish, to-day, my book that detained me, as your 
affairs detained you; and the weather is mild. The Lord 
strengthen, direct, and bless you. Cast all your burdens upon 
him." 

52. Before Mr. Fletcher left Switzerland, he was compelled 
to witness an earnest of those judgments of God upon that once 
happy people, which have since overwhelmed them with a full 
tide, on account, as is probable, of their departure from the 
faith and love of the Gospel. And what is remarkable, those 
judgments " begun" it seems, " at the house of God," at Ge - 
neva, the place which of all others had enjoyed the greatest pri- 
vileges, and made the greatest profession of religion. Mr. 
Fletcher mentions this event, Feb. 14, in a letter to a friend, 
thus : — " T am here in the midst of the rumours of war. The 
burghers of Geneva, on the side of the opposition, have dis- 
armed the garrison, and taken possession of one of the gates. I 
had, however, the happiness to get in, and bring away my ne- 
phew, who is a student there. Some troops are preparing to 
go and block them up. The Lord may, at this time, punish the 
repeated backslidings of these Laodicean Christians, most of 
whom have turned infidels. This event may a little retard my 
journey, as I must pass through Geneva. It also puts off the 
printing my manuscript ; for there is nothing going on in that un- 
happy town but disputes, and fights, and mounting of guards." 

Mr. William Perronet also speaks of these troubles, in a letter 
to his father, a little after, as follows : — " The dispute at Geneva 
is between the burgesses and the magistrates, concerning their 
privileges and prerogatives. The former have appealed to the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



231 



magistrates of Berne, and the latter to the court of France ; and, 
it is feared, the affair will not be ended without great mischief on 
both sides; the citizens having declared, that if their grievances 
are not redressed, they will lock up the gates, and set fire to the 
town, and so perish all together." 

53. The breaking out of these troubles was an additional 
reason why Mr. Fletcher desired to leave that country. " You 
need not urge me," says he to the friend above-mentioned, " to 
return : brotherly-love draws me to Madeley, and circumstances 
drive me hence. With pleasure I see the days lengthen, and 
hasten the happy hour when I shall see the little flock rejoicing 
in God, as, through mercy, I do. I trust to set out next month, 
and to be in England in May. It will not be my fault if it be 
not in April." At the same time he desires another friend in 
his parish, " to read the following note to all that feared God, and 
loved Jesus and each other, assembling in Madeley church. 

" My dear Brethren, 
" My heart leaps for joy at the thought of coming to see 
you, and bless the Lord with you. Let us not stay to praise 
him till we see each other. Let us see him in his Son, in his 
word, in his works, and in all the members of Christ. How slow 
will post-horses go, in comparison of love ! 

' Quick as seraphic flames we move, 
To reign with Chri6t in endless day.' 

" Meet me, as I do you — in spirit ; and we shall not stay till 
April or May to bless God together. Now will be the time of 
union and love." 

54. Mr. Fletcher, however, was disappointed of the company 
of his friend. To his extreme regret he was obliged to leave 
him behind. Mr. Perronet became so much weaker by the 
20th of February, and the weather so much more severe than 
it had been, the snow setting in, that Mr. Fletcher did not dare 
to urge him to take such a journey at such a season : and hav- 
ing himself solemnly promised Mr. Ireland to go to him at 

36 



Ib2 



THE LIFE OF 



Montpeher, if he came over, and having already long delayed 
to fulfil his promise, he could not with propriety delay it any 
longer. He went however to Lausanne, to see Mr. Perronet. 
two days before his departure. He found him weak and low ; 
but the frequent vomitings, which he had had some months 
before, had left him, and his appetite had returned. Mr 
Fletcher, therefore, was not without hopes, which were encou- 
raged by the physician that attended him, that the return of 
fine weather would be instrumental in restoring him. In the 
meantime he was well taken care of. " Miss Perronet and her 
mother," says Mr. Fletcher to his father, " are as kind to him, 
as my dear friends at Newington were to me, when I lay sick 
there : and his mind is quite easy. He is sweetly resigned to 
the will of God." 

Still, however, it was a painful circumstance to Mr. Fletcher 
to be obliged to return to England without him ; and it was cer- 
tainly equally painful to his friend to be left behind in that 
foreign land. " It would have been a much greater pleasure," 
says he to his father, " to have accompanied my dear friend Mr. 
Fletcher, than to have sent a letter by him. Indeed, I had 
flattered myself with the pleasing prospect of returning with 
him, in the spring. But he is engaged by promise to join Mr. 
Ireland, and set out with him before the winter is over. For 
the snow is now on the ground, and it is extremely cold ; whilst 
I am so weak, as frequently to be scarcely able to creep from 
one warm room to another, without danger of fainting away. 
Indeed, once or twice, I have fainted on the slightest occasions. 
But I hope I shall be able to get out a little when the weather 
becomes milder ; and, by the blessing of God, gather strength 
sufficient to undertake the journey to England by the beginning 
of summer ; which time I very much long for." 

55. Mr. Fletcher set out for Montpelier, sometime, I be- 
lieve, in the beginning of March, ' ; full" as Mr. Perronet ex- 
presses it, " of health and spirits." But he greatly impaired 
both by preaching, which he frequently did in that city and 
neighbourhood. And when he got to Lyons, on his return 
from Montpelier, he found himself so very ill, that he observed. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



283 



m a letter to his brother, he was just on the point of returning 
to Switzerland, not thinking it worth while to proceed on hie 
journey to England, in order to languish out a few useless days 
there. But recovering a little strength, April 6, 1781, he wrote 
to Mr. William Perronet as follows, from Lyons : 

" My dear Friend, 
" We are both weak, both afflicted ; but Jesus careth for us. 
He is every where, and here he has all power to deliver us, and 
he may do it by ways we little think of ; * as thou wilt, when 
thou wilt, and where thou wilt,' said Baxter : let us say the 
same. It was of the Lord you did not come with me : you 
would have been sick, as I am. I am overdone with riding and 
preaching. I preached twice in the fields. I carry home with 
me much weakness, and a pain in my back which I fear will 
end in the gravel. The Lord's will be done. I know I am 
called to suffer and die. The journey tires me ; but through 
mercy I bear it. Let us believe and rejoice in the Lord 
Jesus," 

56. Mr. Perronet had expected, as observed above, to gather 
strength as the spring advanced, and the weather became 
milder. In this, however, the Lord saw meet, in a great mea- 
sure, to disappoint his expectations. Spring and even summer, 
bringing warmer weather, came : but still he continued in a simi- 
lar, and even increasing state of weakness. On the 1 5th of May 
he writes : " As to my health, it is not yet restored to me. It 
has pleased God to bring down my strength in my journey, and 
to continue me in that weak condition to this time, notwithstand- 
ing all the efforts of my friends and physicians, and my own en- 
deavours m using a little very gentle exercise from time to time 
as I was able. WTienever I go out, every one stops to stare at 
me, and many express their astonishment at the sight of such a 
spectre ; so greatly am I reduced and altered." 

On the 12th of June following, he seemed to himself to be 
rather gaining a little ground ; but, says he, " the continual, sud- 
den, and severe changes in the weather here, tear me almost 
to pieces, and seem to throw me back as fast as I recover." 



284 



;*THE UFE Ol 



Soon after this, he removed to a pleasant village, called Gimel, 
between Lausanne and Geneva, where Miss Perronet's sister 
was settled. There he rode out, drank asses' milk, and 
breathed the purest air : " Mrs. Perronet is there, " says Mr. 
Fletcher to his father, " with her two daughters. So that, if 
his illness should prove more grievous, he will not want for 
good attendance, and the most tender nursing. Support him, 
dear Sir, with your fatherly exhortations. They are balm to 
his blood, and marrow to his bones." 

57. As the reader will undoubtedly wish to know the sequel 
of the story of this benevolent man, I shall here insert an ex= 
tract from another of his letters. Being returned to Lausanne, 
Oct. 23, he wrote from thence to his father as follows : 

" Honoured and dear Sir, 

" I wrote some time ago by a private hand ; but that is not 
always either the safest or the most expeditious method of con- 
veying intelligence. My letter, however, contained little more 
than an account of my return from the mountains, where I 
seemed to have gained very little in point of health and 
strength. I mentioned, likewise, my earnest wishes to return 
to England, in case it should please God to assist me in the 
means. This, I humbly trust, is in good measure effected : 
for I have, quite unexpectedly, met with a very worthy gen- 
tleman, (a Swiss whom I formerly knew in England) who sets 
out for London within about a week or fortnight. We shall 
travel in a chaise ; and he is so kind as to promise to suit his mode 
of travelling to my weakness, which, indeed, is very great. We 
may possibly be on the road, when this letter reaches you, and 
I doubt not but my friends will assist me with their prayers. The 
season for travelling is late, it is true, especially for one in my 
weak state : but I choose this rather than venture to stay ano- 
ther winter in this terrible climate. Besides, I consider it as a 
providential call to return ; and I have taken your advice, to put 
what remains to be done in my affairs into trusty and good hands." 

He soon after left Switzerland, and with great pain and 
difficulty reached Douay, in French Flanders, where he was 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



285 



taken worse, and died in peace, Dec. 2, 1781. — A little time 
after Mr. Fletcher wrote as follows to his father : 

" Rev. and dear Sir, 
" While I condole with you about the death of my dear 
friend, and your dear son, I congratulate you about the resigna- 
tion and Christian fortitude with which you, Abraham like, lay 
him upon the altar of our heavenly Father's providential, good, 
and acceptable will. We shall one day see why he made your 
sons go before you, and my kind physician before me. About 
the time he died, so far as I can find by your kind letter, a 
strong concern about him fell upon me by day and by night, 
insomuch that 1 could not help waking my wife* to join me in 
praying for him, and at once that concern ceased ; nor have I 
since had any such spiritual feeling : whence I concluded, that 
the conflict I supposed my friend to be in was ended. But how 
surprised was I to find it was by death ! Well ! whether Paul 
or Apollos, or life or death, all things are ours through Jesus^ 
who knows how to bring good out of evil, and how to blow 
us into the harbour by a cross wind, and even by a dreadful 
storm. 

" If my dear friend, your son, has not quite completed his 
affairs in Switzerland, and an agent is necessary there for that 
purpose, I oner you the care and help of my brother, who 
was our counsellor, and who, I am sure, will do what lies in 
him to oblige the father of him whom he had the pleasure of 
having some time under his roof, as a sick monument of Chris- 
tian meekness and resignation. I am but poorly, though I 
serve yet my church without a curate, Mr. Baily being wanted 
at Kingswood. But what are we ? Poor mortals, dying in 
the midst of a world of dying or dead men. But in the midst 
of death, we are in Christ the resurrection and the life, to whom 
be glory for ever. So prays, Rev. and dear Sir, your affection 
ate son and servant in the Gospel, 

j. f: % 

* He was then married. 



286 



THE LIFE OF 



58. To return to the subject of our narrative :— Mr. Fletcher 
arrived in England in the middle of the spring, in tolerable 
health, being quite recovered from his consumption. Calling at 
London, he preached at the New Chapel, slept at Newington, 
April 27, and the next day set out for Bristol. He stayed there 
only a short time, and then retired to Mr. Ireland's, at Brisling- 
ton. The interview which Mr. Rankin had with him here, 
immediately upon his arrival, manifests very clearly that he 
brought back from the Continent the same fervent spirit which 
had accompanied him thither. Of this Mr. Rankin gives me 
the following account : 

" In the year 1781, being stationed in Bristol with my much 
esteemed friend Mr. Pawson, I was informed of Mr. Fletcher's 
arrival at Brislington, from his journey to Switzerland. I rode 
over to Mr. Ireland's the day after, and had such an interview 
with him as I shall never forget in time or eternity. As I had 
not seen him for upwards of ten years, his looks, his salutation, 
and his address, struck me with a mixture of wonder, solemnity, 
and joy. We retired into Mr. Ireland's garden, where we could 
converse with more freedom. He then began to inquire con- 
cerning the work of God in America, and my labours for the 
live years I had spent on that Continent. I gave him, as far as 
I was capable, a full account of every thing that he wished to 
know. While I was giving him this relation, he stopped me six 
times, and, when under the shade of the trees, poured out his 
soul to God, for the prosperity of the work, and our brethren 
there. He appeared to be as deeply interested in behalf of our 
suffering friends, as if they had been his own flock at Madeley. 
He several times called upon me also, to commend them to God 
in prayer. This was an hour never to be forgotten by me while 
memory remains. Before we parted, I engaged him to come to 
Bristol, on the Monday following, in order to meet the select 
band in the forenoon, and to preach in my place in the evening. 
He did so accordingly. During the hour that he spent with the 
select band, the room appeared as ' the house of God and the 
gate of heaven.' He preached in the evening, from the 2nd 
Epistle to the Thessalonians, chap. ii. verse 13. — The whole 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



287 



congregation was dissolved in tears. He spoke like one who 
had but just left the converse of God and angels, and not like a 
human being. The different conversations I had with him, his 
prayers and preaching during the few days which he stayed at 
Bristol and Brislington, left such an impression on my mind, and 
were attended with such salutary effects ; that for some months 
afterward not a cloud intervened between God and my soul, 
no, not for one hour. His memory will ever be precious to me 
while life shall remain, and the union of spirit which I felt with 
that holy and blessed man, will have its consummation in those 
regions of light, love, and glory, where parting shall be no more. 
I beg leave here to subjoin an extract from a letter written to 
me, a few weeks after he arrived at Madeley. 

Madeley, June 25, 1781. 

" My dear Brother, 
" I thank you for your kind remembrance of, and letter to 
me. I found myself of one heart with you, both as a preacher 
and believer, before I left Bristol, and I am glad you find free- 
dom to speak to me as your friend in Christ. By what you 
mention of your experience, I am confirmed in the thought, that 
it is often harder to keep in the way of faith and light than to 
get into it. — 2. That speculation and reasoning hinder us to get 
into that way, and lead us out of it when we are in it. 3. The 
only business of those who come to God, as a Redeemer or 
Sanctifier, must be to feel their want of redemption and 
sanctifying power from on high, and to come for it by simple, 
cordial, working faith. Easily the heart gets into a false rest 
before our last enemy is overcome. Hence arises a relapsing, 
in an imperceptible degree, into indolence and carnal security : 
hence a dreaming that we are rich and increased in goods. This 
is one of the causes of the declension you perceive among some 
of the Methodists. Another is the outward rest they have, which 
is consistent with the selfish views of hypocrites, and with the 
unbending of the bow of faith in those who are sincere. Ano- 
ther may be, judging of the greatness of the work by the nunv 



288 



THE LIFE OF 



bers in society. Be the consequence what it will, those who- 
see the evil should honestly bear their testimony against it 
first in their own souls, next by their life, and thirdly by their 
plain and constant reproofs and exhortations. The work of 
justification seems stopped, in some, degree, because the glory 
and necessity of the pardon of sins to be received and enj&yed 
nozv by faith, is not pressed enough upon sinners ; and the 
need of retaining it, upon believers, The work of sanctifica= 
tion is hindered, if I am not mistaken, by the same reason, and 
by holding out the being delivered from sin as the mark to be 
aimed at, instead of the being rooted in Christ, and filed zoith 
the fulness of God, and with power from on high. The dis- 
pensation of the Spirit is confounded with that of the Son, and 
the former not being held forth clearly enough, formal and luke- 
warm believers in Jesus Christ suppose they have the gift of 
the Holy Ghost. Hence the increase of carnal professors : 
See Acts viii. 16. — And hence so few spiritual men. Let us 
pray, hope, love, believe for ourselves, and call, as you say, for 
the display of the Lord's arm. My love to your dear fellow- 
labourer, Mr. Pawson. Pray for your affectionate brother, 

J. F." 

59. Mr. Ireland being confined by affliction, and wishing, 
nevertheless, to accompany his friend to Madeley, as soon as 
he should be able, Mr. Fletcher stayed a few days at Bris- 
lington, waiting for his recovery, before he set out for his 
parish. Upon their arrival there it was his first care to inquire 
into the spiritual state of his dear flock : but he did not find 
such cause of rejoicing as he had fondly expected. This may 
be easily gathered from the letter he then wrote to his friend at 
Newington. It runs thus : 

" Madeley, June 12, 178 L 

" My very dear Friend, 
" I stayed longer at Brislington than I designed. Mr, 
Ireland was ill. and would nevertheless come hither with me r 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



.239 



so that I was obliged to stay till he was better. And indeed it 
was well I did not come without him : for he has helped me to 
regulate my outward affairs, which were in great confusion. 
Mr. Greaves leaves me : and I will either leave Madeley, or 
have an assistant able to stir among the people : for I had much 
rather be gone, than stay here to see the dead bury their dead. 
Well, we shall soon remove out of all, and rest from our little 
cares and labours. You do not forget, I hope, that you have 
need of patience, as well as I, to inherit the promises, the best 
and the greatest of which are not sealed, but to such as keep 
the word of Christ's patience, and such as persevere with him 
\n his temptations. Hold on then, patient faith and joyful 
hope ! If I were by you, I would preach to your heart, and 
my own, a lecture on this text, We are saved by hope, and by 
a faith which is never stronger than when it is contrary to all 
the feelings of flesh and blood. 

" Pray what news of the glory ? Does the glory of the Lord 
fill the temple, your house, your heart ? A cloud is over my 
poor parish ; but alas ! it is not the luminous cloud by day. 
nor the pillar of fire by night. Even the few remaining pro- 
fessors stared at me the other day, when I preached to them on 
these words, Ye shall receive the Holy Ghost : for the promise is 
unto you. Well, the promise is unto us ; if others despise it^ 
still let us believe and hope. Nothing enlarges the heart, and 
awakens the soul, more than that believing, loving expectation, 
Let us wait together until we are all endued with power from 
on high." 

60. The above letter manifests still further that he had sus- 
tained no loss of his piety and devotedness to God while 
abroad. And although, as it appears, he now entertained thoughts 
of changing his condition in life, it is evident his mind was 
not hereby diverted from the pursuit of his holy vocation ajid 
ministry, nor his zeal in the least damped. This is rendered 
still more evident from a letter I received from him about the 
same time, with an extract from which I shall conclude this 
chapter. 



%9tf THE LI HE OF 

" My dear Brother, 

" I rejoice at, and am much obliged to you for your kind re- 
membrance of me : and I shall be glad to tie faster the blessed 
knot at the approaching Conference, (to be held at Leeds, m 
the beginning of August next,) if my health permit me to be 
there according to my design. Happy are you if you live by 
faith in the atoning blood, for justification and sanctification. It 
is the Spirit alone which can show us the worth, and make 
us feel the powerful influence of the Saviour's blood and righte- 
ousness : and so far as my little experience goes, he gives that 
blessed privilege only to those, who in the depth of poverty wait 
for that divine revelation. I learn not to despise the least beam 
of truth, and I quietly and joyfully wait for the bright sunshine. 

" The best way to avoid errors is to lie very low before God ; 
to know his voice, and consult him in all things ; learning to 
mortify our wise pride ; as well as our aspiring will, and our 
disordered passions. But more of this if we live to see each 
other again. 

" I am at present without an assistant here, but hope soon to 
have Mr. Bailey, one of the masters at Kingswood school. If 
he come, I shall be at liberty to go to Leeds, and I hope God 
will strengthen me for the journey. A godly wife is a peculiar 
blessing from the Lord.* I wish you joy for such a loan. Pos- 
sess it with godly fear and holy joy ; and the God that gave her 
you help you both to see your doubled piety take root in the 
heart of the child that crowns your union. So prays, my dear 
brother, your affectionate friend, 

J. F.» 

* This is said with a reference to my having" married about a year and ?- 
half before, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



29! 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Of his Marriage. 

I, ALTHOUGH the great apostle has ranked the forbidding 
to marry among the doctrines of devils, and has expressly de- 
clared, Marriage is honourable to all men, and the bed undefiled; 
yet a kind of prejudice hangs on the minds of many even of 
those that love God, inclining them to disapprove of the mar- 
riage of persons eminent in religion. Yea, many are of opinion 
that it is not consistent with high degrees of holiness : and that 
when any who have deep experience in the things of God mar- 
ry, they are in some measure fallen from grace. Hence many 
were surprised, that so eminent a Christian as Mr. Fletcher 
should take this step. And they could hardly help thinking, 
that he had lost some degree of his excellent piety, and that he 
was not so unreservedly devoted to God as he ha4 been some 
time before. 

In order to satisfy every reasonable person that he had not 
sustained any loss at all ; that his entire self-devotion was in 
nowise impaired either before or at the time of his marriage, 
the most convincing way, as Mr. Wesley has observed, will be 
to give as particular an account as possible of the steps which 
led to this union ; and of what occurred at the time when it took 
place. — This 1 shall do, first, in the words of the Rev. Mr. Gil- 
pin, and then in those of one who was well acquainted with them 
both, and, in particular, was in habits of great intimacy with the 
pious and amiable person who was the object of Mr. Fletcher's 
choice. 

2. " The attention of ministers," says Mr. Gilpin, " in choosing 
such companions as may not hinder their success in the minis- 
try, is of so great importance, that in some countries the conduct 
of a pastor's wife, as well as that of the pastor himself, is sup- 
posed either to edify or mislead the flock. Nay, the minister 
himself is frequently condemned for the faults of his wife : thus, 
in the Protestant churches of Hungary, they degrade a pastor 



2,92 



THE LIFE OF 



whose wife indulges herself in cards, dancing, or any other pub- 
lic amusement, which bespeaks the gaiety of a lover of the 
world, rather than the gravity of a Christian matron. This se- 
verity springs from the supposition, that the woman having pro- 
mised obedience to her husband, can do nothing but what he 
either directs or approves. Hence, they conclude, that exam- 
ple having a greater influence than precept, the wife of a minis- 
ter, if she be inclined to the world, will preach worldly compli- 
ance with more success by her conduct, than her husband can 
preach the renunciation of the world by the most solemn dis- 
courses. And the incredulity of the stumbled flock will always 
be the consequence of that unhappy inconsistency, which is ob- 
servable between the serious instructions of a well-disposed 
minister, and the trifling conduct of a woman with whom he is 
so intimately connected. Nor are there wanting apostolic or- 
dinances sufficient to support the exercise of this severe disci- 
pline : — Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, 
sober, faithful in all things. Let the bishop or deacon be one 
that ruleth well his own house, having his children, and every part 
of his family, in subjection with all gravity : for if a man know 
not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church 
of God? 1 Tim. iii. 4,5, 11. 

3. "Early in life Mr. Fletcher was introduced to the com- 
pany of Miss Bosanquet, a lady of distinguished piety, and one 
who had been exposed to peculiar sufferings in the cause of 
godliness. From the very first acquaintance of these two ex- 
cellent persons, they were deeply sensible of each other's worth, 
and felt (he secret influence of a mutual attraction. But, not- 
withstanding the peculiar regard they entertained for each other, 
no intimate intercourse subsisted between them for many years 
after this period. Both were called to an extraordinary course 
of spiritual exercises ; but by the providence of God they were 
appointed to labour in different stations. While he was exhaust- 
ing his strength in the service of his flock, she was no less 
honourably employed in applying an ample fortune to the relief 
of the friendless ; collecting together, and supporting under her 
own roof, an extensive family, composed of the afflicted, the in- 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



293 



digent, and the helpless, but chiefly consisting of orphan chil- 
dren. To these occupations they devoted the prime of their 
days ; and during more than twenty years unwearied attention to 
these sacred employments, no regular correspondence was main- 
tained between them. They knew, however, and rejoiced in 
each other's labours : but, while every succeeding report tended 
to increase their mutual regard, they greatly endeavoured to 
turn the whole stream of their affections towards heavenly things, 
joyfully sacrificing every inferior consideration to the interest of 
the church, and the glory of their common Master. 

" It was not till his last return from Switzerland, after his un- 
expected recovery from a dangerous illness, that Mr. Fletcher 
renewed his personal acquaintance with Miss Bosanquet, who 
received him as a friend restored from the grave. They had 
each of them studiously followed the leadings of Providence in 
their appointed stations ; and, at this time, a combination of ex- 
traordinary circumstances led them into those habits of inti- 
macy which daily increased their deep rooted attachment to 
each other. There existed on either side a variety of motives 
to their immediate union, and not a single reason of any weight 
for their continued separation. Every seeming impediment was 
suddenly removed out of the way, and all things wonderfully 
conspired to accelerate that entire connexion between them, 
which promised a large addition to their mutual comfort. At 
length, with the fullest persuasion that they acted under the di- 
vine influence, they received each other at the altar, in the 
most solemn and affecting manner, as from the immediate hand 
of God, and in the presence of a multitude of friends, who re- 
joiced to see so much solid piety and worth united by an indis- 
soluble tie." 

4. The account given by Mrs. C. in a letter to Mr. Wesley, 
is much more particular : and as she was an eye and ear wit- 
ness of what she relates, I doubt not but it will fully satisfy all 
who seriously consider it, that his soul was at that time all alive, 
and wholly devoted to God. And this whole transaction may 
well be recommended to the imitation of all Christians who 
enter the holy state of matrimony. 



294 



THE LIFE OF 



" Rev, Sir, 

" I think it my privilege, and have often found it a blessing, 
to comply with the request of my honoured father, which I now 
do also in great love to my valuable and much esteemed friends, 
Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher. I will therefore endeavour, with the 
assistance of my gracious Lord, to recollect and acquaint you 
with some particulars of the life and character of these truly 
devoted servants of God, wuh whose intimate acquaintance 1 
have been favoured for near thirty years. But indeed, I feel 
my great insufficiency to relate what might be said with the 
strictest truth of these worthies. 

" My acquaintance with Mrs. Fletcher began when she was 
about seventeen years of age. She had from her early child- 
hood been strongly drawn to seek the Crucified, and was now 
a thirst for a clean heart, and longed to have a right spirit re- 
newed within her. Nor did her desire to love God with all her 
heart, lessen, but increase, her love to her neighbour : as I, the 
most unworthy, am well able to testify, to whom she has been 
a tried friend, even to the present hour. 

" To give you a clear view of this, I need only transcribe 
part of a letter which she wrote to me, May 23, 1757. 

i My dearest Friend, 
c The Lord has been indeed merciful, above all that we can 
ask or think. I found a greater blessing the last time I was 
with you than ever. I am more enabled to pray and ear- 
nestly to seek after holiness. But what most stirs me up is, I 
seem to hear the Lord calling upon me, Depart ye, depart ye, 
go ye out thence : touch not the unclean thing : be ye clean that 
bear the vessels of the Lord. For some time these words have 
been much in my mind with both pleasure and profit. But 
within this day or two the Lord has more clearly shown me the 
way wherein 1 ought to walk. He seems to call me out to more 
activity, so that I am ready to cry out, e What wouldst thou 
have me to do V Then I consider, Can I do any more for the 
souls or bodies of the poor about me ? But this does not seem to 
be the thing. What I am now led to wish for, is, with both soul 



THE R*EV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



295 



and body to serve those who are in Christ. And as soon as the 
Lord has prepared me for his work, and set me at liberty, my 
firm resolution is, by the grace of God, to be wholly given up 
to the church, I plainly see, I have no more to do with the 
world than to allow myself the necessaries of love. And though 
it has pleased God that I have no need to work for my living, yet 
surely that is no reason my hand should be idle. I would be 
like those described, 1 Tim. v. 10, To bring up children*, to 
lodge strangers, to be ready to do the meanest cffices for the 
saints : to relieve the afflicted, to visit the fatherless and widows, 
and diligently to follow every good zvork. O pray for me that 
the Lord may shorten his work in me, and quickly make an end 
of sin ! O that he would say to my soul, Thou art all fair, my 
love f There is no spot in thee. O when shall I be wholly given up> 
both body and soul, to him who gave himself for me !' 

" I admired the spirit of this letter ; but little expected to see 
these good desires brought so fully into practice as they were a 
few years after. And this may suffice as a clear proof, that God 
fulfils the desires of them that fear him ; yea, and shows unto them 
the path wherein he would have them to walk. That her light 
given before was not delusive is plain ; as it is well known, how 
many years she has brought up children, lodged strangers, reliev- 
ed the afflicted, and diligently followed every good work. 

" With regard to the dear saint that is now swallowed up in 
his beloved employment, praise and adoration, it is eight or nine 
and twenty years since I was first favoured with his heavenly 
conversation, in company with Mr. Walsh, and a few other 
friends, most of whom are now in the world of spirits. At these 
seasons how frequently did we feel— 

1 The overwhelming power of saving grace V 

How frequently were we sijenced thereby, while tears of love 
our souls o'erflowed ! It sweetly affects my soul, while I recol- 
lect the humility, fervour of spirit, and strength of faith with 
which dear Mr. Fletcher so often poured out his soul before the 
great Three One, at whose feet we have lain in holy shame and 
divine silence, till it seemed earth was turned to heaven! — 



29G 



THE LIFE OF 



With what delight does my soul recall those precious moments i 
Yet a little while, and we shall all magnify His name together. 

" This heavenly-minded serv ant of the Lord resembled his 
Master likewise in his love to precious souls. I heard him 
preach his first sermon at West-street Chapel. I think his 
text was, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His 
spirit appeared in his whole attitude and action, though he 
could not well find words in the English language to express 
himself: but he supplied that defect, by offering up prayers, 
tears, and sighs abundantly. Nearly about this time, he saw 
Miss Bosanquet, and began his acquaintance with her. But 
although they had a particular esteem for each other, yet they 
had no correspondence for above twenty years. It was not 
till the yearly Conference drew near in July 1781, that he 
paid her a visit at her own house near Leeds. They had 
much conversation together, and contracted an intimate ac- 
quaintance. After a few days. Miss Bosanquet, asked your 
(Mr. Wesley's) advice, concerning Mr. Fletcher's proposal. 
You approved it entirely, being persuaded it would be much to 
the glory of God." 

About the middle of September Mr. Fletcher returned to 
Madeley, where he continued till the end of October, when 
he again visited Yorkshire, intending immediately after his 
marriage to set out with his spouse to his beloved parish. For 
he seemed to think every hour a day while he was detained 
from his dear people. But unavoidable hinderances occurring, 
their mutual friend, the Rev. Mr. Cross, was so kind as to 
supply Madeley, while Mr. Fletcher took care of Mr. Cross's 
parish in his absence. 

" His general conversation," proceeds Mrs. C. " while at 
Cross-Hall was praising God, and speaking of the love of our 
dear Redeemer. He took opportunities likewise of speaking 
to every one in the family, concerning the state of their souls, 
and giving them from time to time such directions as were 
suitable thereto. At other times he met us all together, and 
gave us proper exhortations and directions. Our daily meals 
were as a Sacrament; when he drank to any one it was. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



297 



6 Heavenly health,' or 'The cup of salvation.' At or after 
the meal, he generally begun, or called us to begin that verse, 

{ Still, O my soul prolong, 

The never-ceasing song ! 
Christ my theme, my hope, my joy ! 

His be all my happy days ! 
Praise my every hour employ : 

Every breath be spent in praise !' 

After dinner he often sung several verses of primitive Chris 
tianity : particularly that, 

4 O that my Lord would count me meet, 
To wash his dear disciples' feet ! ? 

Sometimes he read many of those verses with tears streaming 
down his face. Thus did he walk with God, filled with the 
Spirit of his beloved Lord : confirming his love to all the fa- 
mily, and caring both for their spiritual and temporal concerns. 

" My soul was much affected, when he asked each of us, in 
a sweet humble manner, £ Can you give me your friend V To 
think of parting was indeed grievous to us all. Yet we did 
not dare to withhold her from him : as we all believed the union 
was of God, and would be to their present and eternal benefit. 
The first sermon which he preached in Leeds, on the Sunday 
morning before the Conference, will never be forgotten by any 
that heard it, who desire to be perfected in love. He preached 
in many places while in Yorkshire, and to numerous congrega- 
tions. I have heard of many who were blessed thereby : some 
convinced of sin, others comforted. And whenever he either 
preached or conversed, the comforts of the Holy Ghost were 
multiplied. 

"Monday, November 12, was the day appointed for the out- 
ward uniting of those, whose hearts were before united by the 
Holy Spirit. On the morning of this day, several friends met 
together on this solemn occasion : who can all, with me, truly 
say, ' 1 have been at one Christian wedding.' Jesus was in- 
vited, and truly he was at our Caiia. We reached Cross-Hall 
before family -prayers : Mr. Fletcher was dressed in his canoni- 
cals : and after giving out one of Mr. Wesley's Marriage 

38 



298 



THE LIFE OF 



Hymns, he read the seventh, eighth, and ninth verses ot the 
nineteenth chapter of the Revelation ; and spoke from them in 
such a manner as greatly tended to spiritualize the solemnities 
of the day. He said, ' We invite you to our wedding : but the 
Holy Ghost here invites you to the marriage of the Lamb. The 
Bride, the Lamb's wife, has made herself ready. This bride 
consists of" the whole Church triumphant and militant united to- 
gether. Ye may all be the Bride, and Jesus will condescend to 
be the Bridegroom. Make yourselves ready by being filled with 
the Spirit.' He was very solemn in prayer, and said, ' Lord 
thou knowest, we would not take this step, if we had not eter- 
nity in view, and if we were not as willing to be carried into the 
church yard, as to go into the church.' At breakfast he re- 
minded us, ' The postillions are now ready to carry us to the 
church, in order to see our nuptials solemnized ; but death will 
soon be here, to transport us to the marriage of the Lamb.' 

" On the way to the church, (Batley church, which was near 
two miles off,) he spoke much of the mystery which is couched 
under marriage, namely, the union between Christ and his 
Church. ' The first Adam,' said he, c received his wife from his 
side : our heavenly Adam purchased his bride by a fountain 
opened in his pierced side.' They were married in the face of 
the congregation ; the doors were opened, and every one came 
in that would. We then returned home, and spent a consider- 
able time in singing and prayer. We were near twenty of us* 
I then presented Mrs. Fletcher with some Wedding Hymns. 
She looked them over, and gave them to Mr. Fletcher. He 
read the scripture at the top, namely, Husbands love your wives : 
and added, as Christ loved the Church. Then turning to us, he 
said, 4 My God, what a task ! Help me, my friends, by your 
prayers to fulfil it. As Christ loved the Church! He laid 
aside his glory for her! He submitted to be born into our 
world ; to be clothed with a human body, subject to all our sin- 
less infirmities. He endured shame, contempt, pain, yea, death 
itself, for his Church! O my God, none is able to fulfil this 
task without thine almighty aid. Help me, O my God ! Pray 
for me, O my friend? l> 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER* 



293 



" He next read, Wives submit yourselves unto your own hus- 
bands. Mrs. Fletcher added, As unto the Lord. ' Well, my 
dear,' returned Mr. Fletcher, ' Only in the Lord. And if ever 
I wish you to do any thing otherwise, resist me with all your 
might.' From dinner, which was a spiritual meal, as well as a 
natural one, until tea-time, our time was spent chiefly in fer- 
vent prayer or singing. After singing the Covenant Hymn, Mr. 
Fletcher went to Mrs. Fletcher, and said to her, 4 Well, my 
dearest friend, will you join with me in joining ourselves in a 
perpetual covenant to the Lord ? Will you, with me, serve him 
in his members ? Will you help me to bring souls to the blessed 
Redeemer ? And in every possible way this day lay yourself 
under the strongest ties you can, to help me to glorify my gra- 
cious Lord V She answered like one that well knew where her 
strength lay, 6 May my God help me so to do P 

" In the evening Mr. Valton preached in the hall from those 
most suitable words, What shall I render unto the Lord for all 
his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the 
-name of the Lord. — His words did not fall to the ground : many 
were greatly refreshed. After preaching there was a sweet 
contest among us ; every one thought, I, in particular owe the 
greatest debt of praise : till we jointly agreed to sing, 

* I'll praise my Maker while I've breath, 
And when my voice is lost in death, 

Praise shall employ my nobler powers : 
My days of praise shall ne'er be past, 
While life, or thought, or being last, 
Or immortality endures.' 

** On the Wednesday following, the Select Society met : and it 
was a precious season. Among other things Mr. Fletcher said, 
i Some of you perhaps may be a little surprised at the step my 
dearest^ friend and I have taken. But I assure you it was the re- 
sult of much prayer and mature deliberation. Five and twenty 
years ago, when I first saw my dear wife, I thought if I ever mar- 
ried, she should be the person. But she was too rich for me to 
think of. So I banished every thought of the kind. For many years 



300 



THE LIFE Of 1 



after I had a distaste to a married life, thinking it impossible to be 
as much devoted to God in a married, as in a single life. But this 
objection was removed by reading, Enoch begat sons and daugh- 
ters. And Enoch walked with God, and was not : for God took 
him. I then saw, if Enoch at the head of a family might walk 
with God, and be fit for translation : our souls under the Gospel 
dispensation might attain the highest degree of holiness in a 
similar state, if too great an attachment, leading the soul from 
God, rather than to him, did not take place ; instead of that, 
which should be a mean of increasing its union with Jesus. 
Yet still many obstacles stood in my way : but at length they 
were all removed. Every mountain became a plain, and we 
are both well assured, that the step we have taken has the full 
approbation of God.' 

" But to repeat all the precious sayings of this servant of God, 
would require many volumes : for his mouth was always opened 
with wisdom, tending to minister grace to the hearers. My 
earnest prayer is, that the spirit of faith and love, and heavenly 
wisdom, may rest upon you also, and guide you in all your ex- 
tensive labours, till they are swallowed up in eternal rest. I re- 
main, Rev. Sir, your unworthy child and servant, 

S. C." 

5. An extract from one or two of his letters written to some 
intimate friends soon after his marriage will manifest still further 
both the staie of his mind on this occasion, and the just, scriptu- 
ral views he had of the new relation into which he had entered* 
Dec. 26, 1781, he writes from Cross-Hall, the former residence 
of Mrs. Fletcher, as follows, to the Hon. Mrs. C 

" My very dear Friend, 
" The kind part you take in my happiness demands my 
warmest thanks ; and I beg you will accept them, multiplied by 
those which my dear partner presents to you. Yes, my dear 
friend, I am married in my old age, and have a new opportunity 
of considering a great mystery, in the most perfect type of our 
Lord's mystical union with his Church. I have now a new call 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



301 



to pray for a fulness of Christ's holy, gentle, meek, loving Spi- 
rit, that I may love my wife, as he loved his Spouse, the Church. 
But the emblem is greatly deficient : the Lamb is worthy of his 
Spouse, and more than worthy ; whereas, I must acknowledge 
myself unworthy of the yoke-fellow whom Heaven has reserved 
for me. She is a person after my own heart ; and I make no 
doubt we shall increase the number of the happy marriages in 
the Church militant. Indeed they are not so many, but it may 
be worth a Christian's while to add one more to the number. 
God declared it was not good that man, a social being, should 
live alone, and therefore he gave him a help meet for him : for 
the same reason our Lord sent forth his disciples two and two. 
Had I searched the three kingdoms, I could not have found one 
brother willing to share, gratis, my weal, wo, and labours ; and 
complaisant enough to unite his fortunes to mine ; but God has 
found me a partner, a sister, a wife, to use St. Paul's language, 
who is not afraid to face with me the colliers and bargemen of 
my parish, until death part us. 

" Buried together in our country village, we shall help one 
another to trim our lamps, and wait, as 1 trust you do continually, 
for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. Well, for us the 
heavenly child is born, to us a double son is given, and with him 
the double kingdom of grace and glory. O my dear friend, let 
us press into, and meet in both of these kingdoms. Our Surety 
and Saviour is the way and the door into them ; and, blessed be 
free grace, the way is free as the king's highway, and the door 
open like the arms of Jesus crucified." 

January 1st, 1782, he adds, " I live, blessed be God, to de- 
vote myself again to his blessed service in this world, or in the • 
next, and to wish my dear friends all the blessings of a year of 
Jubilee. Whatever this year bring forth, may it bring us the 
fullest measures of salvation attainable on earth, and the most 
complete preparation for heaven. I have a solemn call to gird 
my loins and keep my lamp burning. Strangely restored to 
health and strength, considering my years ; by the good nursing 
of my dear partner, I ventured to preach of late as often as I 
did formerly, and after having read prayers and preached twice 



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on Christmas-day, &c. I did last Sunday what I had never done, 
— I continued doing duty from ten till past four in the afternoon, 
owing to christenings, churchings, and the Sacrament, which I 
administered to a church full of people : so that I was obliged 
to go from the communion-table to begin the evening service, 
and then to visit some sick. This has brought back upon me 
one of my old dangerous symptoms, so that I had flattered 
myself in vain to do the whole duty of my own parish. My 
dear wife is nursing me with the tenderest care, gives me up to 
God with the greatest resignation, and helps me to rejoice, that 
life and death, health and sickness, work all for our good, and 
are all ours, as blessed instruments to forward us in our journey 
to heaven. We intend to set out for Madeley to-morrow. The 
prospect of a winter's journey is not sweet ; but the prospect of 
meeting you and your dear sister, and lady Mary, and all our 
other companions in tribulation in heaven, is delightful. The 
Lord prepare and fit us for that glorious meeting ! Your most 
obliged and affectionate servant, 

J. F." 

6. The next day they left Cross-Hall as they proposed, and 
set out on their journey to Madeley ; on which occasion the 
friend who gives the above account of their marriage, observes : 
" Jan 2, 1782, we had a very solemn parting. But in the midst 
of all the sorrow which we felt, was a sweet assurance that we 
should meet again, not only in this world, but 

4 Where death shall all be done away, 
And bodies part no more.' 

This brings to my mind a sentence which he wrote to us, a little 
before his death. i Time is short. It remains that we die 
daily. Stand fast in Christ, the resurrection and the life. That 
we may have a happy meeting is the wish and prayer of your 

affectionate friends, 

John and Mary Fletcher. 5 " 

After their arrival at Madeley, he writes to lady Mary Fitz- 
gerald as follows " I thank you, my Lady, for your kind con- 



THE REV. JOItN FLETCHER. 



303 



gratulations on my marriage. The Lord has indeed blessed me 
with a partner after my own heart, — dead to the world, and 
wanting, as well as myself, to be rilled with all the life of God, 
She joins me in dutiful thanks to your ladyship, for your 
obliging remembrance of her in your kind letter, and will help 
me to welcome you to the little hermitage we spoke of last year 
in London, if your ladyship's health or taste should call you to 
retire awhile from the hurry of the town." And about a year 
after, in a letter to Mr. Charles Wesley, his words are : " I thank 
you for your hint about exemplifying the love of Christ and his 
Church. I hope we do. I was afraid at first to say much of 
the matter ; for new-married people do not, at first, know each 
other : but having now lived fourteen months in my new state, 
I can tell you, Providence has reserved a prize for me, and that 
my wife is far better to me, than the Church to Christ ; so that 
if the parallel fail, it will be on my side." 

" From this period," to use Mr. Gilpin's words, " Mr. 
Fletcher considered himself as possessed of the last possible 
addition to his earthly happiness, never mentioning this memo- 
rable event, but with expressions of extraordinary gratitude and 
devotion to the God of all his mercies. And from this time, to 
the other parts of his character must be added that of an atten- 
tive and an affectionate husband, which he maintained with a 
becoming mixture of dignity and sweetness to the day of his 
death. By her Christian conversation, her devotional habits, 
and her spiritual experience, Mrs. Fletcher was peculiarly suit- 
ed to a state of the most entire and intimate fellowship with 
this eminent servant of God. She was of equal standing with 
him in the school of Christ, and of the same uncommon growth 
in grace : she had drank of the same spirit, was actuated by the 
same zeal, and prepared in every respect to accompany him in 
the Christian race. JBy her discretion and prudence she bore the 
whole weight of his domestic cares ; while, by the natural activity 
of her mind, and her deep acquaintance with divine things, she 
seconded his ministerial labours with astonishing success. Like 
Zacharias and Elizabeth, these extraordinary persons were both 
eminently righteous before God, rvalking in all the commandments 



304 



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and ordinances of the Lord blameless. In their separate stations 
they had long been distinguished as lights in dark places : but 
after uniting their rays, they shone with redoubled lustre, put- 
ting to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and dissipating the 
prejudices which many had entertained against the truths of the 
Gospel. 

" For the space of almost four years, these Christian yoke- 
fellows continued to enjoy, without interruption, all the inex- 
pressible felicities of the most complete union 1 ; a union which 
appeared to promote, at once, their own particular happiness, 
and the interests of the people among whom they jointly 
laboured*" 



QftRRfe 

CHAPTER IX. 

From Ms Marriage till the beginning of his last Illness* 

2. From the time of his settling at Madeley with Mrs. Flet- 
cher, he had no return of his consumptive disorder. On the 
contrary, by the blessing of God on her peculiar care and ten- 
derness, not only his health was confirmed, but his strength 
restored as in the days of his youth. In the meantime he took 
care to employ all his returning strength in the work of faith, 
and the labour of love. " I have yet strength enough," sayg 
he to Mr. Charles Wesley, Dec. 19, 1782, "to do my parish 
duty without the help of a curate. O that the Lord would 
help me to do it acceptably and profitably ! The colliers 
begun to rise in this neighbourhood : happily the cockatrice's 
egg was crushed before the serpent came out. However, I 
got many a hearty curse from the colliers for the plain words J 
spoke on that occasion. I want to see days of power both 
within and without : but in the meantime I would follow closely 
my light in the narrow path. My wife joins me in respectful 
love to Mrs. Wesley and yourself. 

J. F. v 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



305 



More particularly Mr. Fletcher was diligent in that which 
he had always found to be one of the most difficult parts of 
his duty. There were in the parish of Madeley, no less than 
eighteen public-houses. These were continual nurseries for 
sin, particularly on Sunday evenings. It had been, for many 
years, his unwearied endeavour to put an end to these abuses. 
Yet, as he very seldom had a churchwarden who was heartily 
willing to second him therein, his endeavours were almost in- 
effectual, producing very little fruit. But for two years God 
was now pleased to favour him with a churchwarden who was 
resolved to act according to his oath : he then cheerfully re- 
newed his endeavours, visiting several of these houses every 
Sunday, (all of them in their turn.) In every one he bore 
a faithful testimony. And in some it was attended with much 
good. O that no one of those who have been at any time 
within the reach of his voice, may finally inherit that curse, 
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish. 

2. For many years he had felt, with the deepest sensibility, 
the disconsolate condition of poor, uninstructed children : and 
some years ago he began a school, wherein he taught them 
himself every day. After pursuing this method for some time, 
he erected a school in MadeJey Wood. But afterward his 
thoughts were much engaged concerning the utility of Sunday 
schools ; especially after they were recommended to him by 
Mrs. Darby, an intelligent and pious person, whom he always 
found ready to promote every good work. He then earnestly 
set about promoting them in his own parish. Three hundred 
children were soon gathered together, whom he took every 
opportunity of instructing, by regular meetings, for some time 
before the schools were opened. These meetings he attended 
with the utmost diligence, till the very Thursday before his 
illness. In order to encourage the children, his method was 
to give them little hymn books, pointing them to some friend 
or neighbour who would teach them the hymns, and instruct 
them to sing. The little creatures were greatly taken with 
this new employment : insomuch that many of them would 
scarce allow themselves time to eat or sleep, for the desire they 



306 



THE LlFE OF 



had of learning their lessons. At every meeting, after inquiring^ 
Who had made the greatest proficiency ? he distinguished them 
by some small rewards, 

3. In instructing of children, one great difficulty is to draw 
and fix their attention. He had a singular gift for doing this, 
as appears by the following anecdote, and others that might be 
related, if need were: Once when he visited Kingswood school, 
having collected all the youths together, and secretly addressed 
the throne of grace, he called for pen, ink, and paper, told the 
scholars he came to seek for volunteers for Christ, and desired 
all those who were willing to enlist in his service, to enter their 
names on the paper. A peculiar blessing attended the proposal : 
it led several of them to a serious concern for their souls, and 
to a resolution of giving themselves up to live and die in the 
Lord's service. At another time, when he had a considerable 
number of children before him in a place in his parish, as he 
was persuading them to mind what they were about, and to 
remember the text which he was going to mention, just then a 
robin flew into the house, and their eyes were presently turned 
after him. " Now," said he, " I see you can attend to that robin, 
Well, I will take that robin for my text." He then gave them 
a useful lecture on the harmlessness of that little creature, and 
the tender care of its Creator. 

4. When he observed that the number of children, instead 
of falling off, as was expected, increased continually, he wrote 
some proposals to the parish, which were received with the 
greatest unanimity. Many of the rich as well as the trading- 
people lent their helping hand, not only to defray the expense 
of teachers, but also to raise a convenient house in Coalbrook- 
Dale, for the instruction of the numerous children that were on 
that side of the parish* 

5. He prefaced the proposals thus *. " Our national depravity 
turns greatly on these two hinges, the profanation of the Lord's 
day, and the neglect of the education of children. Till some 
way be found of stopping up these two great inlets of wicked- 
ness, we must expect to see our workhouses filled with aged 
parents forsaken by their prodigal children, with wives forsaken 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



307 



by their faithless husbands, and with the wretched offspring of 
lewd women and drunken men. Nay, we may expect to see 
the jails, and even the gallows, largely stocked (to the perpetual 
reproach of our nation) with unhappy wretches ready to fall a 
sacrifice to the laws of their country, ' It is a common observa- 
tion, (says Dr. Gibson, late bishop of London,) that public cri- 
minals, when they come to their unhappy end, and make their 
dying declarations to the world, generally charge the sinful 
courses in which they have lived, to the neglect and abuse of the 
Lord's day, as the first occasion of leading them into all other 
wickedness. And considering how frequently these declarations 
are repeated, and how many other instances of the same kind, 
though less public, are notorious enough to those who will 
observe them ; they may well be a warning to us to consider a 
religious observation of the Lord's day as the best preservative 
of virtue and religion, and the neglect and profanation of it as 
the greatest inlet to vice and wickedness.' 

" A pious clergyman further observes, 4 The want of edu- 
cation in children is one of the principal causes of the misery of 
families, cities, and nations ; ignorance, vice, and misery, being 
constant companions. The hardest heart must melt at the 
melancholy sight of such a number of children, both male and 
female, who live in gross ignorance and habitual profanation of 
the Lord's day. What crowds fill the streets and fields, tempt- 
ing each other to idleness, lewdness, and every other species 
of wickedness ? Is it any wonder that we should have so many 
undutiful children, unfaithful apprentices, disobedient servants, 
untrusty workmen, disloyal subjects, and bad members of soci- 
ety ? Whence so much rapine, fornication, and blasphemy ? Do 
not all these evils centre in ignorance and contempt of the Lord^s 
day ? And shall we do nothing to check these growing evils ? 

" Persons concerned for the welfare of the next generation, 
and well-wishers to church and state, have already set us a fair 
example in Stroud, Gloucester, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, 
Bristol, and many country parishes. They have attempted to 
remedy these evils by setting up Sunday schools, which, by keep- 
ing children from corrupting one another, by promoting their 



THE LIFE OF 



attendance on divine worship, and by planting the first princi- 
ples of useful knowledge in their minds, and of piety in their 
hearts, bid fair for a public reformation of manners, and for nip- 
ping, in the bud, the ignorance and impiety which are every 
where so common among the lower and more numerous classes 
of people." 

6. The proposals concerning Sunday schools in the parish of 
Madeley were as follows : 

I. It is proposed, That Sunday schools be set up in this parish, 
for such children as are employed all the week, and for those 
whose education has been hirtherto totally neglected. 

II. That the children admitted into these be taught reading, 
writing, and the principles of religion. 

III. That there be a school for boys, and another for girls, in 
Madeley, Madeley Wood, and Coalbrook-Dale, six in all. 

IV. That a subscription be opened to pay each teacher one 
shilling per Sunday^ and to buy tables, forms, books, pens, and 
ink. 

V. That two treasurers be appointed to ask and receive the 
contributions of the subscribers. 

VI. That whosoever subscribes one guinea a year shall be a 
governor. 

VII. That three or four inspectors be appointed, who are to 
visit the schools once a week, to see that the children attend 
regularly, and the masters do their duty. 

VIII. That a book be provided, for setting down all receipts 
and expenses ; and another for the names of the teachers and 
the scholars. 

IX. That the schools be solemnly visited once or twice a year : 
and a premium given to the children that have made the greatest 
improvement. 

7. As to the success of his unwearied labours, although he 
was much discouraged when he first returned from abroad, 
iinding so many of those who had once run well, grown weary 
and faint in their minds ; yet it was not long before he found 
fresh cause to rejoice, and to know that God was with him of a 
truth. It was not long before he observed a general reforma- 



THE RE.V. JOHN FLETCHER.. 



309 



tion had taken place in the parish. And it was not only an out- 
ward reformation, even of many that had been notorious for all 
manner of wickedness ; but an inward also : many, both young 
and old, having learned to worship God in spirit and in truth. A 
considerable number of these still mourn their loss of him, as 
sheep bereaved of their shepherd. And yet one cannot doubt, 
but a still larger company of his own children have hailed him 
on the celestial shore. But the season is coming when all 
secrets shall be laid open ; and all the jewels of his crown shall 
be made manifest in that day. 

8. One instance of the effect of his ministry, he mentioned 
some years since at Bristol. " One Sunday," said he, " when I 
had done reading prayers at Madeley, I went up into the pulpit, 
intending to preach a sermon, which I had prepared for that 
purpose. But my mind was so confused that I could not recol- 
lect either my text !i or any part of my sermon. I was afraid I 
should be obliged to come down, without saying any thing. — ■ 
But having recollected myself a little, I thought I would say 
something on the first lesson, which was the third chapter of 
Daniel, containing the account of the three worthies cast into 
the fiery furnace : I found, in doing it, such an extraordinary assis- 
tance from God, and such a singular enlargement of heart, that 
I supposed there must be some peculiar cause for it. I there- 
fore desired, if any of the congregation had met with any thing 
particular, they would acquaint me with it in the ensuing week, 

" In consequence of this, the Wednesday after, a person came? 
and gave me the following account. — Mrs. K. had been for 
some time much concerned about her soul. She attended the 
church at all opportunities, and spent much time in private 
prayer. At this, her husband (who is a butcher) was exceed- 
ingly enraged, and threatened severely what he would do, if 
iie did not leave off going to John Fletcher's church : yea, if 
she dared to go any more to any religious meetings whatever. 
When she told him, she could not in conscience refrain from 
going, at least to the parish church, he grew quite outrageous, 
and swore dreadfully, if she went any more, he would cut her 



SIO 



THE LIFE OP 



throat as soon as she came home. This made her cry mightily 
to God that he would support her in the trying hour. And 
though she did not feel any great degree of comfort, yet having a 
sure confidence in God, she determined to go on in her duty, 
and leave the event to him. Last Sunday, after many strug- 
gles with the devil and her own heart, she came down stairs 
ready for church. Her husband asked her, whether she was 
resolved to go thither ? She told him she was. f Well then,' 
said he, 4 1 shall not, as I intended, cut your throat ; but I will 
heat fhe oven, and throw you into it, the moment you come 
home. Notwithstanding this threatening, which he enforced 
with many bitter oaths, she went to church, praying all the 
way that God would strengthen her to suffer whatever might 
befall her. While you were speaking of the three Hebrews 
whom Nebuchadnezzar cast into the burning fiery furnace, 
she found it all belonged to her, and God applied every word 
to her heart. And when the sermon was ended, she thought, 
if she had a thousand lives, she could lay them all down for 
God. She felt her whole soul so filled with his love, that she 
hastened home, fully determined to give herself to whatsoever 
God pleased : nothing doubting but that either he would take 
her to heaven, if he suffered her to be burnt to death, or that 
he would some way deliver her even as he did his three 
servants that trusted in him. But when she opened the door, 
to her astonishment and comfort she found her husband's wrath 
abated, and soon had reason to believe that he was under a 
concern for the salvation of his soul. The next Lord's day, 
contrary to his former ungodly custom, he attended divine 
service at the church, and even received the Lord's Supper. 
These good impressions, however, it is feared, have no£ pro- 
duced any lasting change on his heart and life. But I now 
know why my sermon was taken from me, namely, that God 
might thus magnify his mercy." 

6. Many were the dangers he went through in the course 
of his ministry ; but the Lord delivered him out of them all. 
One of these Mrs. Fletcher relates in the following words : 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



311 



" My husband having appointed to preach one Sunday at a 
church about fourteen miles off, I felt some concern for his 
riding so far, and doing the whole Sunday's duty twice : 
especially as it was necessary for him to return home the same 
night. The evening being exceeding dark and wet, I was 
strongly led to commend him to God in prayer. While I was 
doing this, it was suggested to me, that his horse was fallen, 
and had thrown him over his head : and the whole scene ap- 
peared to be clearly represented before my eyes. ' My God,*' 
said I, 'he is thine. His life, his limbs, his health, all are 
thine! I commit him to thee by faith.' Immediately that 
word was impressed on my heart, The righteous is in the hand 
of the Lord : and there shall no evil touch him. And it filled 
my soul with such a sweetness, that I could feel no fear. The 
night was uncommonly bad, which occasioned many friends to 
continue with me. And while they expressed their great un- 
easiness at his staying two hours longer than we could well 
account for, I was obliged to hide the calmness I felt by si- 
lence, lest some should have supposed it insensibility. At last 
he came well, and praising God ; but asked for water to wash 
himself, because his horse had fallen, and thrown him with 
great force over his head. Yet, glory be to God, he was no 
way hurt, except having a little skin grazed from one of his 
fingers. As he set the Lord always before him, so he found his 
help in every time of need.'' 

10. In the beginning of the year 1783, his kind friend and 
host, Mr. Greenwood, was called away. On this mournful oc- 
casion he writes as follows to Mrs. Thornton. 

" Yesterday I received your melancholy, joyful letter, as 1 
came from the Sacrament, where the grace of God had armed 
me to meet the awful news. And is my merciful host gone 
to reap the fruit of his mercy to me ? I thought I should have 
been permitted to go first and welcome him into everlasting 
habitations ; but Providence has ordered it otherwise, and I am 
left behind, to say, with you and dear Mrs. Greenwood, The 
Lord gave, md has taken away, and blessed he his holy name. 



312 



THE LIFE qr 



" The glory witii which his setting sun was gilded, is the 
.greatest comfort by which Heaven could alleviate his loss. Let 
me die as he did, and let my last end be like his ! I was so sen- 
sibly affected by your account, that I could not help reading 
part of your letter at church in the afternoon, and desiring all 
the congregation to join me in thanksgiving, for the late mer- 
cies he had vouchsafed to my generous benefactor. On such 
occasions let sighs be lost in praise ; and repining in humble 
submission and thankful acquiescence. I hope dear Mrs. Green- 
wood mixes a tear of joy with a tear of sorrow. Who would not 
be landed on the other side the stream of time, if he were sure 
of such a passage ? Who would wish his best friend back on 
th,e shores of sorrow, so triumphantly left by Mr. Greenwood ? 

" So Mr. and Mrs. Perronet are no more ; and Lazarus is 
still alive ! What scenes does this world afford ? But the most 
amazing is certainly that of Emmanuel crucified and offering us 
pardons and crowns of glory ! May we ever gaze at that won- 
derful object, until it has formed us into love, peace, and joy ! 
We thank you for the sweet name you still call us by, and we 
heartily take the hint, and subscribe ourselves, your affectionate, 
grateful friends, and ready servants in Christ, 

J. and M. F." 

11. Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher had been earnestly requested by 
several serious persons at Dublin, to come over and spend a 
few weeks in that city, for the purpose of promoting the interests 
of religion, by their godly exhortations and example. As long as 
civility or piety would suffer it, they declined the journey : but 
after being repeatedly urged to undertake it, at the united in- 
stances of the Methodist Society, they judged it improper any 
longer to withhold their consent, lest in disregarding the solici- 
tations of a willing people, they should disobey the summons of 
God. Accordingly, in the summer of this year, (1789,) they 
accepted the invitation, and appeared for a season in another 
kingdom, as two burning and shining lights. A gentleman of 
Dublin, who enjoyed much of their company during this holy 
visit writes as follows : 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



" ; I wish it were in my power to send you any anecdotes of our 
dear deceased friend. But, unless I were to send you an 
account of the words and actions of every day, I know not 
where to begin. One particular circumstance, however, 1 will 
relate.— Upon his going to leave us, knowing the scanty pittance 
he received from his parish, we thought it but an act of common 
honesty to refund him the expense he had been at in coming, 
and to bear his charges back again. Accordingly, after he had 
preached, on the last evening of his stay among us, the steward 
and trustees united to press his acceptance of a small purse, not 
as a present, but as a debt justly due to him. But he firmly and 
absolutely refused it. At length, being very urgent with him, 
and importunate to an excess, he took the purse in his hand. 
( Well,' said he, i do you really force it upon me ? Must I 
accept of it ? Is it entirely mine ? And may I do with it as I 
please V i Yes, yes,' we all replied. 6 God be praised then, God 
be praised,' said he, casting his brimful eyes to heaven, i behold 
what a mercy is here ! Your poor's fund was just out : I heard 
some of you complaining that it was never so low before. 
Take this purse. God has sent it you, raised it among your- 
selves, and bestowed it upon your poor. You cannot deny me* 
It is sacred to them. God be praised ! I thank you, I heartily 
thank you, my dear, kind brethren.' 

" Thus was his free Gospel a bountiful provision for our poor, 
while this last generous action served to harrow in the precious 
seed that his labour of love had been sowing among us. Indeed 
it was a crowning of his labours, a sealing of his message, that 
will never be forgotten by us, that is registered in the pages of 
eternity, and will follow him among those works that he ever 
gloried to cast at the feet of Jesus." 

- 12. From Dublin, Aug. 23, he wrote to lady Mary Fitzgerald 
as follows : 

" Honoured and dear Madam, 
" I see the truth of those words of our Lord, In me ye shall 
have peace, comfort, strength and joy ; Be of good cheer. We 
came here to see the members of our Lord, and w r e find you 

40 



314 



THE LII^ OF 



removed, and removing farther still than you now are. What 
does this providence teach us ? I learn that I must rejoice in 
the Lord above all his members, and find them all in him, who 
fills all in all ; who is the life of all our friends, the joy of all our 
brethren. If our Lord be your life, your strength, and your all, 
you cannot go from your spiritual friends ; they will meet you in 
the common centre of all life and righteousness ; there they will 
bless you, rejoice in your joy, and sympathize in your sorrow. 

" If Providence call you to England by Scotland, by which 
route your ladyship apprehends so much difficulty, you know we 
must, at least, go to heaven by a way equally painful, — the nar- 
row way, the way marked with blood, and with the tears and 
cross of the Son of God 5 and if we follow him weeping, we shall 
return with everlasting joy on our heads. Even now the fore- 
taste of those joys is given to us through hope, for by hope we are 
saved. Let our faith and hope be in God, rooted and grounded 
in him. who gives vital heat to our hearts, and who fans there 
the spark of grace which his mercy has kindled ; and may that 
spark, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, become a fire of 
holy love, heavenly zeal, and heavenly glory. Such power 
belongeth to the Almightv. 

" My dear partner, who, like myself, is deeply sensible of 
your ladyship's kindness in remembering us, joins me in thanks 
for your obliging note, and in cordial wishes, that all the desires 
of your believing soul may be granted you both for time, death, 
and eternity. We subscribe ourselves, with grateful sincerity, 
honoured Madam, your devoted servants in our bleeding Lord, 

J. and M. F." 

13. While in Dublin, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher were entertained 
chiefly at the house of William Smyth, Esq. On their return to 
Madeley, in November, they expressed their gratitude for the 
kindness shown them in the following words : 

" Dear Sir, 

u The many great favours you have loaded us with, during 
our long stay under your hospitable roof, prompted us to make 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



315 



die earliest acknowledgment of our obligations, and to beg you 
would receive our warmest thanks for such unexpected and 
undeserved tokens of your brotherly love. But the desire of 
filling our only frank, has hindered their being more early traced 
upon paper ; though they have been, are now, and, we trust, 
shall ever be, deeply engraven on our hearts. You have united 
for us the Irish hospitality, the English cordiality, and the French 
politeness. And now Sir, what shall we say ? You are our gene- 
rous benefactor, and we are your affectionate, though unprofita- 
ble servants. In one sense we are on a level with those, to 
whom you show charity in the streets : we can do nothing but 
pray for you, your dear partner, and yours. You kindly re- 
ceived us for Christ's sake ; may God receive you freely for his 
sake also! You have borne with our infirmities: — the Lord 
bear with yours also ! You have let your servant serve us ; — 
the Lord give all his servants and his angels charge concerning 
you, that you hurt not your foot against a stone, and may be helped 
out of every difficulty ! You have given us a most pleasing 
resting place, and comfortable apartment under your roof, and 
next your own chamber : — the Lord grant you eternal rest with 
him in his heavenly mansions! May he himself be your habita- 
tion and resting place for ever : and place you and yours with 
his own jewels, in the choicest repository of precious things ! 
You have fed us with the richest food : — may the giver of every 
perfect gift fit you for a place at his table, and may you rank 
there with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! You have given us 
wines : — may you drink with Christ himself, the fruit of the 
vine, new in your Father's kingdom ! You have given us 
a rich provision for the way : — when you cross the flood, the 
deep flood of death, may you find that your heavenly Lord has 
made such a rich provision of faith, righteousness, hope, and joy 
for you, that you may rejoice, triumph, and sing, while you leave 
your earthly friends to go home ! which, by the by, is more than 
we were enabled to do ; for instead of singing in our cabins, there 
was very different melody. 

" However, we could soon, with grateful, joyful hearts, look 
back from the British to the Irish shore, and greet in spirit the 



316 



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dear friends we had left there. The Lord bless and increase 
them in spiritual, and if best for them, in temporal goods also ! 
The Lord crown them and theirs with loving-kindness, and mer- 
cies equal to the love of our God, and the merits of our Saviour ! 
And now, dear Sir, what shall I add ? I cannot now even see 
my Bible, but through the medium of your love, and the token 
with which it alternately loads my pocket and my hand. I can- 
not even seal a letter with a good wafer, but I find a new call 
to repeat my thanks to you. I would begin again, but my scrap 
of paper is full, as well as my heart ; and I must spare a line to 
tell you that I had the pleasure of seeing our kind benefactress, 
Mrs. Smyth, safe at Bristol, with her little charge, and lady 
Mary. We remain, dear Sir, your most affectionate and most 
obliged pensioners and servants, 

J. andM. F." 

At the same time they addressed an affectionate letter to the 
members of the Methodist Society in Dublin, from which I pre- 
sent the reader with the following short extract : 

" To all the dear Brethren, who after kindly inviting John and 
Mary Fletcher, patiently bearing with them and their infirmi- 
ties, and entertaining them in the most hospitable, Christian 
manner, have added to all their former favours, that of thank- 
ing them for their most pleasant and profitable journey : — 

" Brethren, and dearly beloved in the Lord, 
" We had felt shame enough under the sense of your kindness 
and patience towards us, and of our unprofitableness towards you, 
when at Dublin. You needed not have added to our shame by 
the new token of your love, the friendly letter we have received 
from you. We are indebted to you, dear brethren ; we owed you 
the letter of thanks you have gratuitously sent. But in all things 
you will have the pre-eminenGe, and we are glad to drink the cup 
of humility at your feet. May the Lord, who can part the sea 
by the touch of a rod, and could at first cause the earth to bring 
forth abundantly all manner of trees and plants, without seed, 
so bless the seed of the word, which we sowed in great weak- 
ness among you, as to make it produce a full crop of humble 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



317 



repentance, cheerful faith, triumphant hope, and the sanctifying 
influences of God's Spirit in your hearts, in all your families, 
in all your assemblies, and in your whole Society ! If your 
profuse liberality towards us, abounded to the comfort of our 
poor brethren, we doubly rejoice on your account, and on 
theirs," 

14. The laying the foundation of the Sunday-schools at 
Madeley, was the last public work in which he was employed. 
But as the liberal man is ever devising liberal things, he had 
several plans in his mind for providing for a great number of 
desolate children, brought up only to beg and steal. Such this 
populous parish, and indeed most others, afford in great abun- 
dance. He had likewise proposed writing various little tracts, 
for the use of the schools. But He who cannot err, saw good to 
call his servant hence to enjoy, rather than leave him here to do 
and suffer. 

15. I shall conclude this chapter with some short extracts 
from two or three of his letters to his friends ; written during 
the last year of his life. These I shall here insert with w a view 
to show that his ideas of, and zeal for, spiritual, experimental, 
and practical religion, including universal holiness of heart and 
life, continued unvaried to the end of his days, and that to the 
last he "walked by the same rule," by which he had walked 
from the beginning, " minded the same things," and persevered, 
" to press to the mark, for the prize of his high calling," never 
satisfied with what he had attained. 

Sept. 13, 1784, he writes to Mr. Ireland thus " Surely the 
Lord keeps us both in slippery places, that we may still sit 
loose to all below. Let us do so more and more, and make the 
best of those days, which the Lord grants us to finish the work 
he has given us to do. let us fall in with the gracious designs 
of his providence : trim our lamps, gird our loins, and prepare 
to escape to the heavenly shore, as Paul did, when he saw 
the leaky ship ready to go to the bottom, and made himself 
ready to swim to the land. 

" I keep in my centry-box till Providence remove me : my 
situation is quite suited to my little strength ; I may do as much 



SIS 



rm him of 



or as little as 1 please, according to my weakness : and I have 
an advantage which I can have no where else, in such a 
degree :— my little field of action is just at my door, so that 
if I happen to overdo myself, I have but a step from my pulpit 
to my bed, and from my bed to my grave. If I had a body 
full of vigour, and a purse full of money, I should like well 
enough, to travel about, as Mr. Wesley does ; but as Providence 
does not call me to it, I readily submit. The snail does best 
in its shell : were it to aim at galloping like the race-horse, it 
would be ridiculous indeed. I thank God, my wife, who joins 
me in thanks to you for your kind offer, is quite of my mind 
with respect to the call we have to a sedentary life. We are 
two poor invalids, who between us make half a labourer. 

" She sweetly helps me to drink the dregs of life, and to 
carry with ease the daily cross. Neither of us are long for 
this world ; we see it, we feel it, and by looking at death and 
his Conqueror, we fight beforehand our last battle, with tha» 
last enemy, whom our dear Lord hath overcome for ws." 

Jan. 21, 1785, he says to Mrs. Thornton, "Between the 
living and the dead, (being dying worms ourselves,) what man- 
ner of people ought we to be in our generation ? If we cannot 
be what we would, burning and shining lights, showing forth 
the glory, the mercy, the love of our Lord, as those, who flame 
with indefatigable zeal, and run a race of immense labours, let 
us at least lie meekly at Christ's feet, as Mary, or patiently 
hang on the cross, as our common Lord. 

" I want much to know how you all do in soul and body : 
as for me, I make just shift to fill up my little c entry-box, by the 
help of my dear partner. Had we more strength we should 
have opportunity enough to exert it. O that we were but 
truly faithful in our little place ! Your great stage of London 
is too high for people of little ability and little strength, and 
therefore, we are afraid of venturing upon it, lest the con- 
sequence should be our bringing new burdens on our generous 
friends. We should be glad to rise high in usefulness ; but 
God, who needs us not, calls us to sink in deep resignation and 
humility. His will be done !" 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



319 



To Mr. Henry Brooke, Feb. 28, his words are : " We are all 
shadows. Your mortal parent hath passed away ; and we pass 
away after him. Blessed be the Author of every good and 
perfect gift for the shadow of his eternal paternity displayed to 
us in our deceased parents. What was good, loving, and lovely 
in them, is hid with Christ in God ; where we may still enjoy it 
implicitly , and where we shall explicitly enjoy it, when he shall 
appear. A lesson I learn daily is to see things and persons in 
their invisible root, and in their eternal principle ; where thej r 
are not subject to change, decay, and death ; but where they 
blossom and shine in the primeval excellence allotted them by 
their gracious Creator. By these means, I learn to walk by 
faith, and not by sight ; but like a child, instead of walking 
straight and firm in this good, spiritual way, I am still apt to 
cling here or there ; which makes me cry, ' Lord, let me see 
all things more clearly, that I may never mistake a shadow for 
the substance, nor put any creature, no not for a moment, in 
the place of the Creator; who deserves to be loved, admired, 
and sought after, with all the powers of our souls.' 

" Tracing his image in all the foot-steps of nature, or look- 
ing for the divine signature on every creature, as we would 
look for the king's image on an old, rusty medal, is true phi- 
losophy ; and to find out that, which is of God in ourselves, is 
true wisdom, genuine godliness. I hope you will never be 
afraid, nor ashamed of it. I see no danger in these studies 
and meditations, provided we still keep the end in view, — the 
all of God, and the shadozvy nothingness of all that is visible. 

" With respect to the great pentecostal display of the 
Spirit's glory, I still look for it within and without ; and to look 
for it aright is the lesson I am learning. 

" I am glad your partner goes on simply and believingly. 
Such a companion is a great blessing, if you know how to 
make use of it. For ' when two of you shall agree touching 
any one thing in prayer, it shall be done.' My wife and I en- 
deavour to fathom the meaning of that deep promise ; join your 
line to ours, and let us search what, after all, exceeds know- 
ledge, — I mean the wisdom and the power, the love and faith- 



320 



THJ2 LIFE OF 



fulness of God. Adieu. Be God's, as the French say ; and see 
God yours in Christ." 

The last letter, probably, which he wrote, dated July 1 9, 
1785, about three weeks before his death, and a fortnight before 
he was taken ill, is addressed to his faithful friend Mr. Ireland, 
in the following words, 

" My dear Friend, 

" Blessed be God, we are still alive, and in the midst of many 
infirmities, we enjoy a degree of health, spiritual and bodily. 
O how good was the Lord to come as Son of Man to live here 
for us, and to come in his Spirit to live in us for ever ! This is 
a mystery of godliness : The Lord make us full witnesses of it ! 

" A week ago, I was tried to the quick by a fever with which 
my dear wife was afflicted : two persons whom she had visited, 
having been carried off, within a pistol-shot of our house, I 
dreaded her being the third. But the Lord hath heard prayer, 
and she is spared. O what is life ! On what a slender thread 
hang everlasting things ! My comfort however, is, that this thread 
is as strong as the will of God, and the word of his grace, which 
cannot be broken.- — That grace and peace, love, and thankful 
joy, may ever attend you, is the wish of your most obliged friends, 

J. and M. F." 

— -«><vyyi~ — 

CHAPTER X. 

His Character, taken chiefly from the Rev, Mr, Gilpin's Account, 

i. Although it be the method of almost all writers,* to 
place the character of the person whose life they write, at the 
conclusion of their work, there seems to be a particular reason 
for pursuing a different plan with respect to Mr. Fletcher. God 
gave such an uncommon display of his power and goodness, in be- 
half of his highly favoured servant, at his death, that it seems quite 
proper, the account of that last scene, should close the history of 

* Mr. Wesley's Life of Fletcher, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



321 



him, and that nothing should follow it. I shall therefore here 
insert the best account I can collect of the character of this great 
and good man. But as we have scarce any light from himself, 
there is a peculiar difficulty in the way. " He was on all occa- 
sions," as Mr. Wesley has justly observed, " very uncommonly 
reserved in speaking of himself, whether in writing or conver- 
sation. He hardly ever said any thing concerning himself, 
unless it slipped from him unawares. And among the great 
number of papers which he has left, there is scarce a page, 
(except that single account of his conversion to God) relative 
either to his own inward experience, or the transactions of his 
life. So that the most of the information we have is gathered 
up, either from short hints scattered up and down in his letters, 
from what he had occasionally dropped among his friends, or 
from what one and another remembered concerning him." 

2. From the imperfect account, however, which has already 
been given of him, any discerning person may, with very little 
difficulty, extract his character. In general, it is easy to per- 
ceive, that a more excellent man has not appeared in the church 
for some ages. It is true, in several ages, and in several coun- 
tries, many men have excelled in particular virtues and graces. 
But who can point out, in any age or nation, one that so highly 
excelled in all ? One that was enabled, in so large a measure, to 
put on the whole armour of God? Yea, so to put on Christ as to 
perfect holiness in the fear of God ? 

8. It is evident, as Mr, Gilpin relates,* that his life might, 
with the greatest propriety, be termed, " a life of faith." 
Through the whole of his Christian pilgrimage he walked by 
faith, not by sight. By faith he embraced the truths of the Gos- 
pel, when they were first proposed to him in plainness and sim- 
plicity; not barely admitting, but relying upon them with an 
entire confidence. By faith he relinquished the world, while it 
presented him with many flattering prospects, choosing rather to 
suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures 



* Portrait, page 42. 
41 



322 



THE LIFE OF 



of sin for a season. By faith he endured the displeasure of his 
friends, and patiently suffered their contradiction, esteeming the 
reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the world, 
and having respect unto the recompense of reward. By faith he 
engaged himself in the Christian warfare, unmoved either by its 
difficulties, or its dangers ; and by faith he endured to the end, as 
seeing Him who is invisible. Though his faith was always in- 
creasing, yet, during his Christian profession, there never was a 
time in which he was regarded as a man, weak, or wavering in 
the faith of the Gospel. On the contrary, he seems to have 
borne a strong resemblance to those two extraordinary charac- 
ters, whose faith, upon their very first application to Christ, not 
only procured his approbation, but appeared to excite his asto- 
nishment. 

4. His faith was frequently put to the severest tests; but, 
after being tried to the uttermost, it remained unshaken. He 
regarded the promises of God as the firm supports of this grace ? 
nor was he ever seen to stagger at any of those promises through 
unbelief If the promise was great and important ; if its full 
accomplishment was even doubted by his most esteemed fellow- 
labourers : yet this holy man continued strong in faith, giving 
glory to God j being fully persuaded, that what he had promised 
he zvas able also to perform. By this mighty grace he engaged 
in the most difficult duties, and saw many mountainous obstacles 
removed from his path. By this he was enabled to bear the 
heat and burden of the day j and, by this, notwithstanding all the 
discouragements that could be thrown in his way, he went on 
from conquering to conquer. 

5. " The nature of his faith, was evidenced by the works it 
produced. He stood not as a cumberer of the ground in his 
Master's vineyard ; «but like a tree planted by the water side, he 
brought forth his fruit in due season. He stood as an humble 
representation of that Tree of Life, which grows by the river 
of Paradise ; for in his fruit there was a wonderful variety, and 
every successive season was with him a season of spiritual plenty. 
He not only bore that delicate kind of fruit which requires the 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



323 



sunshine of prosperity ; but produced, with equal luxuriance, 
those hardier graces which can only be matured by the rigours 
of adversity. 

6. " It is the privilege of every Christian to be united to 
Christ : that, as he and the Father are one, so his disciples may 
be one with their adorable Master. This privilege, in its lowest 
sense, is inconceivably estimable in the Church of Christ; but 
by this eminent servant of God it was enjoyed in a more than 
ordinary degree. His union with the blessed Jesus, answerable 
to the greatness of his faith, was intimate and constant. He ex- 
perienced the fulfilment of that condescending promise, If any 
man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and 
sup with him, and he zoith me : he obeyed the summons and 
received the promised visitant; and from that time his heart 
became the dwelling-place of Christ. There he experienced 
the teachings of uncreated wisdom, and held ineffable commu- 
nion with the Author and Finisher of faith, imbibing abundantly 
the Spirit of his Divine Instructer, and sitting under his shadow 
with great delight. By this sacred intercourse, continued from 
day to day, his union with Christ became so entire, that he was 
at length enabled to adopt the expressive declaration of the 
great apostle, — / live, yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me. 

7. " The strictness of this union was evinced by his whole 
disposition and carriage. The mind that was in Christ, was 
discovered also in him. He denied himself, he took up his 
cross, and trod in the footsteps of his Master. He cheerfully 
submitted to the yoke of Jesus, and was effectually taught by 
his example to be meek and lowly in heart. He breathed the 
language of universal benevolence, and copied the character of 
his Lord with so great exactness that all men took knowledge of 
him that he had been with Jesus. Fellowship with Christ is, 
with the generality of Christians, a state of much uncertainty, 
and subject to many changes; but, by this holy man, it was 
well nigh uninterruptedly enjoyed, through all the different 
stages of the spiritual life. It was his consolation in the sea- 
son of adversity, and his glory in the day of rejoicing ; it sus- 
tained him in the hour of temptation, and afforded him peace 



324 



THE LIFE OF 



in the midst of trouble. At home or abroad, he still was sit- 
ting with Christ Jesus in heayenly places. In sickness or 
health, he daily conferred with this Physician of inestimable 
value. In honour or dishonour, he still was dignified with 
the favour of this Everlasting King. In short, the whole circle 
of his Christian friends are ready to testify, that neither tribu- 
lation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor life, nor death, were 
able to separate this faithful pastor from the love of Christ ; for 
whom he, suffered the loss of all things, and by whose gracious 
presence that loss was abundantly overpaid." 

8. Next to his faith, and the union and communion which 
he had with Christ thereby, we may notice his patience and 
fortitude under the various trials whereby his faith and other 
graces were exercised. " Thou, O God, hast tried us like as 
silver is tried, has been the language," observes Mr. Gilpin, 
" of the faithful in every period of the church : for whom the 
Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scour geth every son whom he re- 
ceive th. Of that chastisement, whereof all the children of the 
kingdom are partakers, Mr. Fletcher was not without a painful 
share. He had fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, and 
could bear ample testimony to the fatherly corrections of that 
righteous God, whose fire is in Sion, and his furnace in Jerusalem, 
His trials were of various kinds, frequently repeated ; many 
times of long continuance ; and, on some occasions, peculiarly 
severe. But from whatever quarter his trials arose, whether 
he suffered through bodily infirmity and pain, from the infidelity 
of false brethren, or from the despitefulness of open enemies, 
he suffered as a man unreservedly devoted to the will of God, 
regarding neither ease nor health, the consolations of social 
intercourse, nor the estimation of the world, but so far as 
they tended to promote either the welfare of his brethren, or 
the glory of their common Lord. 

9. " Three things were especially observable in his conduct, 
with respect to trials in general. 

" First. Fie was careful never to plunge himself into difficul- 
ties through inadvertence and precipitation. Conscious that 
his path was encompassed with innumerable dangers and snares, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



325 



he proceeded in his course with the utmost wariness and cir- 
cumspection, deliberating on the tendency of every expression, 
and weighing the probable consequences of every step. With- 
out swerving to the one hand by intemperate zeal, or to the 
other by worldly compliance, he steadily persevered in the 
path of duty, endeavouring to have, always, a conscience void oj 
offence to7uard God, and toward men. 

" Secondly. Wherever he saw a trial awaiting him, in the 
order of Providence, how terrific an aspect soever it might 
wear, he went on to meet it without the least indication of 
despondency or fear. He esteemed no difficulty too great to 
be surmounted, no cross too heavy to be endured, nor any 
enemy too strong to be opposed, in the way of God's appoint- 
ment. Here he considered himself as under the immediate 
protection of the Almighty, and knowing in whom he believed, 
he committed the keeping of his soul to him in well-doing, as unto 
a faithful Creator. 

" Thirdly. He entered into the conflict under a lively im- 
pression of the truth of that apostolic declaration : Blessed is 
the man that endureth temptation $ for when he is tried he shall 
receive the crown of life. This sentiment sustained him in the 
day of trouble, and produced in him a degree of fortitude pro- 
portioned to the severity of the trial. He could smile under 
the langours of disease, and the violence of pain ; he could 
hear, without emotion, the reproaches of malice, and receive, 
without resentment, the shafts of ingratitude ; counting it all joy 
when he fell into divers temptations, and glorifying the Lord in 
the fiercest fires of affliction. 

10. " But while he discovered an astonishing degree of firm- 
ness under the sharpest trials, he was a perfect stranger to that 
stoical sullenness which steels the heart against the attacks of 
adversity. His fortitude was sustained, not by insensibility, but 
by patience and resignation. Through the most afflicting pro- 
vidential dispensations his attention was fixed upon that won- 
drous example of patient suffering which was exhibited in the 
High Priest of his profession : and if ever his sensibility con- 
strained him to cry out, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass 



326 



THE LIFE OF 



from me ; his resignation as constantly disposed him to add, 
nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done. Such was the con- 
duct of Mr. Fletcher with respect to trials of every kind. He 
never created them through imprudence ; he never avoided 
them through timidity ; he never endured them, but with an 
uncommon share of fortitude and patience : and it may be added, 
that he never experienced the removal of a trial without thank- 
fully ascribing his support under it, and his deliverance from it, 
to the gracious interference of that invisible arm which is 
mighty to save, 

11. " With such dispositions, it is not difficult to conceive, 
that like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he held communion 
with the Son of God in the hottest furnace of affliction ; so that, 
like Job, he came forth from the most grievous trials as gold 
purified in the fire. The friends he has left behind him can 
joyfully testify, that he had learned the happy art of glorying 
even in tribulations, from a consciousness that tribulation work- 
eth patience ; and patience, experience ; and experience, hope. 
Nay, they are further prepared to testify, that his hope was 
matured into the fullest assurance, when they recollect how he 
would frequently come forth from a state of keen distress, repeat- 
ing the confidential exclamation of the great apostle : Who shall 
separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, 
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, 
in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that 
hath loved ws." 

12. His devotion to the Lord Jesus was equal to his faith in 
him, and his other graces. " Though this be strictly enjoined 
by the church," as is justly observed by the author last quoted,* 
" it is rarely discernible in the conduct of her members. As the 
majority of Christians are satisfied with a superficial knowledge 
of the Redeemer, so their devotion to him is purely of a pro- 
fessional nature. Their attachment to Christ may dispose them 
to some few external marks of respect towards him, but is insuf- 
ficient to produce in them any single act of genuine obedience, 



* Portrait, page 65. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



327 



or self-denial. They reverence his name, while they reject his 
authority ; and acknowledge him as a Saviour, while they re- 
fuse to follow him as a guide. In all these respects it was 
totally otherwise with the man whose character is here faintly 
delineated. His devotion to Christ was sincere and unreserved, 
first, as a private Christian, and afterward as a minister of the 
Gospel. As a private Christian, he was a strict and constant 
follower of the blessed Jesus, renouncing for his sake, all the 
transient gratifications of time and sense. Whatever he had 
formerly admired and pursued, he voluntarily laid at the feet of 
his Lord. Those requisitions of Christ, which are generally 
looked upon as strict in the extreme, he submitted to without a 
murmur : cutting off the right hand, plucking out the right eye $ 
and casting away whatever might prove offensive to his spot- 
less Master, with all the determination of a deep-rooted attach- 
ment. He cast aside every weight, he resisted every sin, and 
neglected nothing that might prove either the sincerity of his 
zeal, or the fervour of his love. He dedicated his time, his 
studies, his acquisitions, and his substance, to the service of his 
Lord ; and desired to present him, at once, with his whole being, 
as a living sacrifice, expressive of his entire devotion. 

13. " As a minister of the Gospel, his devotion to Christ was 
expressed, if possible, in a still more absolute manner. He 
entered more universally into his service, and manifested a 
greater degree of zeal for the honour of his name. He imi- 
tated his perfections in a more unlimited sense, and interested 
himself more deeply in the extension of his kingdom upon earth. 
His renunciation of the world became more complete, and his 
self-denial more strict. He acted with greater resolution, and 
suffered with greater firmness, in the cause of Christianity. His 
devotion to Christ was now carried to a higher pitch than most 
Christians are willing to believe attainable in the present life. 
He had no interest to serve, no inclination to gratify, nor any 
connexion to maintain, but such as was*entirely conformable to 
the nature of his union with the holy Jesus. Wherever he 
came, he breathed the spirit of devotion, and wherever he was 
familiarly known, the purity, the fervour, the resolution, and the 



328 



THE LIFE OF 



constancy of that devotion, were universally apparent. He 
daily felt and acted in conformity to the powerful obligations by 
which he was bound to the Captain of his salvation. His vows 
of inviolable affection and fidelity were solemnly renewed, as 
occasion offered, both in public and in private : and it was won- 
derful to observe, through all the vicissitudes of his Christian 
warfare, how perfect a harmony was maintained between his 
inclinations and his engagements, his habits and his profession. 
It would be very easy to expatiate largely under this head, 
though very difficult to give a description, in any tolerable 
degree, adequate to the subject. Instead of presenting the 
reader with several pages upon the point now before us, it shall 
suffice to say, that this venerable man's entire devotion to 
Jesus Christ, as a minister of the Gospel, was variously express- 
ed, 4 in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 
in labours, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, 
by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love 
unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the 
armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by 
honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report.' " 

14. Another particular in his character, touched upon by Mr, 
Gilpin,* is his perfect disinterestedness. " Upon his discover^ 
ing," says he, " the goodly pearl of evangelical truth, Mr, 
Fletcher, like the merchant in the Gospel, immediately bartered 
his all for the possession of so invaluable a gem. Till then, he 
had been engaged in pursuits of a worldly nature : but, from that 
time, he sought, after no other treasure than the unsearchable 
riches of grace, nor desired any inheritance except that which 
is reserved for the saints in everlasting light. Through every 
period of his religious life he appeared as a pilgrim and stran- 
ger in the world, unallured by its smiles, unmoved by its frowns, 
and uninterested in its changes, His affections were wholly 
fixed upon things above ; and while thousands and ten thousands 
were contending around him for the advantages and honours of 
the present life, he desired to pass unnoticed through its idle 



* Portrait, page 252= 



THE REV. JQHN FLETCHER. 



320 



hurty, without being entangled in its concerns, or encumbered 
with its gifts. It was with him, as with a person engaged in a 
race, which must be attended with immense gain or irreparable 
loss, — he kept his eye immoveably fixed upon the goal ; and 
whatever gilded trifles were thrown in his way, he resolutely 
trampled on them all, uninterruptedly pressing towards the 
mark, for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. His 
mind was never distracted with a multiplicity of objects, nor 
did he ever mingle temporal expectations with eternal hopes. 
Considering one thing only as absolutely necessary to his 
happiness, while he pursued the substance he rejected the sha- 
dow ; and while he contended for an incorruptible crown, he 
had no ambition to appear in the fading garlands of earthly 
glory. Possessed of that faith which overcometh the zoorld, 
he beheld it with the feelings of his tempted Master : anxious 
for its good, but despising its yoke ; prepared to labour in its ser- 
vice, but resolute to reject its rewards ; deaf to its promises, 
blind to its prospects, and dead to its enjoyments. 

15. " He received, indeed, a part of his maintenance from the 
altar at which he served : but so scanty was the income pro- 
duced by his parish that it scarcely sufficed, in some years, for 
the liberality of his contributions towards the relief of the poor. 
Yet so perfectly satisfied was he with his inconsiderable ap- 
pointments at Madeley, that he desired nothing more than to 
conclude both his labours and his life in that favoured village. 
Had he been disposed to improve every favourable opportunity 
of advancing his temporal interests, he might have succeeded 
beyond many, who are anxiously plotting and contriving the 
means of their future promotion in the world. But as a proof 
of his superiority to every allurement of this nature, he pe- 
remptorily refused, once and again, the offer of additional prefer- 
ment. — And, as a further testimony of his perfect disinterested- 
ness, after having so far destroyed his health, by the excess of his 
labours, that he was obliged to retire for a season from his 
charge, he solemnly determined, in case of continued weakness, 
to give up together the profits and duties of his ministerial 
station." 

' 42 



330 



THE LIFE OF 



The reader will recollect the anecdote respecting his disin- 
terestedness when in Dublin. But the disposition here de- 
scribed was not confined to pecuniary matters. It was exem- 
plified through his whole conduct, which manifested, upon all 
occasions, that he acted under the entire influence of that disin- 
terested charity which seeketh not her own, 

16. And as he regarded not his own temporal interest, so 
neither did he seek his own honour. u Among all the candi- 
dates for human praise," proceeds Mr. Gilpin,* " there is none 
more conspicuous than the man who exhibits his pretensions to 
applause from the pulpit.— Dishonourable as it is to the cause of 
Christianity, the place, from which humility and self-denial 
were formerly recommended to the world, is frequently em- 
ployed, by modern divines, as a stage for the ostentatious dis- 
play of their superior parts and accomplishments. Preferring 
the praise of men before the honour that cometh from God, 
multitudes of pastors are more solicitous to be ranked with pro- 
found theologists, elegant scholars, and masters of elocution, 
than to be numbered among the zealous and unaffected 
preachers of the everlasting Gospel. They court the applause 
of the world by seeking after such qualifications as will naturally 
recomraend them to its favour ; while they secure themselves 
from its reproaches by carefully avoiding whatever might tend 
to degrade them in its estimation. In short, they are abun- 
dantly more solicitous for the advancement of their own reputa- 
tion, than for the honour of their Master, or the increase of his 
kingdom. 

1 7. 16 Between pastors of this description and Mr. Fletcher, 
the most distant resemblance was not to be discovered. The 
fkvour of God was his ultimate aim through life ; and, for the 
possession of so invaluable a privilege, he was content to forego 
the riches, the friendship, and even the good opinion of the 
world. Despising the common pursuits of men, he aspired after 
that true greatness which never yet excited the envy of the 
mighty, or the emulation of the ambitious. Whatsoever things 



* Portrait, page 153= 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



331 



are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of 
good report, in such things he was daily and diligently occupied ; 
not that the report of his virtues might raise his reputation 
among men, but rather that he might become an example to the 
believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in spirit, in 
purity. Though few men have ever had so just a claim as himself 
to universal approbation, yet no man ever appeared so perfectly 
deaf to the syren voice of admiration and praise. He per- 
mitted nothing to be related in his presence that apparently 
tended to his advantage. He could hear his actions censured, his 
opinions condemned, and his character traduced, with an astonish- 
ing degree of silent composure. But if at any time his virtues or 
abilities were mentioned with the least appearance of respect, 
he would instantly put a stop to the conversation, with an air of 
severity which he seldom assumed upon any other occasion. 
On matters of this nature, he resolutely refused to hear the 
voice of the charmer, with whatever discretion and delicacy the 
subject might be attempted. He counted himself no better 
than an unprofitable servant : and, as such, it was an invariable 
rule with him, in every company, to take the lowest seat; 
which he occupied, not as a man who was conscious that his 
merits entitled him to a more honourable place, but rather as 
one who considered himself unworthy of the favour of God, or 
the notice of man. 

18. "As an ambassador of Jesus Christ, he sought not his 
own honour, but the honour of him that sent him. Neither 
exalted by the grace he had received, nor elated with his suc- 
cess in the ministry, he still opened his commission in every 
place, in the lowly manner of the great apostle : Unto me who 
am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I 
should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. He counted 
nothing either upon his attainments or his talents. Instead of 
endeavouring to make a pompous display of his excellencies* 
he studiously concealed them from the notice of the world \ 
and whether he was engaged in planting with Paul, or in water- 
ing with Apollos, he sought to turn every eye from the person 
of the labourer, to the presence of that God who alone can 



332 



THE LIFE OF 



give the increase. Far from courting the applause of a world 
in which his Lord had been publicly despised and rejected^ 
he was sincerely disposed to drink of the cup, and to be bap- 
tised with the baptism of his Master* 

19. "Instead of toiling for the triumphs of vain glory, he 
inured himself to bear the reproach of the cross : and instead 
of soliciting the smiles of the world, he prepared himself to 
endure the contradiction of sinners. Fully persuaded, that it is 
enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, he sought after 
an entire conformity to the mind and character of his Lord. 
Though formed to preside, he voluntarily took upon himself 
the form of a servant, and submitted to the lowest offices of 
condescension and charity. Though capable, as a preacher, 
of fixing the attention and raising the admiration of the multi- 
tude, he absolutely renounced all pretensions to regard, and 
modestly made himself of no reputation. As a proof that he 
was not ambitious, either of the uppermost seats in syna- 
gogues, or of honourable salutations in places of public resort, 
he laboured for the church in a state of comparative retirement 
and obscurity : manifestly evidencing to all around him that 
he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. In this un- 
envied situation of his choice he spent the laborious days of 
a useful life, as unknown, yet well-known ; as sorrowful, yet 
always rejoicing ; as poor, yet making many rich ; as having no- 
thing, and yet possessing all things. Thus, by a patient con- 
tinuance in well-doing, he sought for glory, honour, and immorta- 
lity, unnoticed by the ambitious and the vain, but eminently con- 
spicuous among those whose praise is not of men but of Godf." 

* 20. Nearly related to his disregard of, and deadness to the 
praise of men, was his humility. " This," continues Mr. 
Gilpin,* " is at once the groundwork and perfection of Chris- 
tianity. Where this holy temper increases in the soul, there 
every grace is proportionably carried towards a state of matu- 
rity ; but wherever this is wanting, there, sooner or later, 
every appearance of grace must wither and die : God resisteth 



* Portrait, page 128. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



333 



the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Examples of deep 
humility are uncommon, even in the Church of Christ : but 
among the rarest examples of this kind, Mr. Fletcher must be 
allowed a distinguished place. From his natural disposition, 
perhaps no man had ever greater opposition to struggle against 
in his progress to humility ■ but as few professors of religion 
were ever known to resist their natural propensities with so deter- 
mined a resolution, few ever gained so complete a victory over 
themselves as Mr. Fletcher. Lowliness of mind was con- 
sidered, by the generality of his friends, as the most distin- 
guished trait in the character of this great man ; and it may be 
truly asserted, that no person ever conversed with him either at 
home or abroad, without being struck with the genuine meek- 
ness and simplicity of his whole carriage. This admirable 
disposition, which is lovely in the lowest of its possessors, was 
peculiarly striking in him, in whom it shone forth amid an un- 
common variety of accomplishments, and attended with a train 
of excellent graces. 

21. "Wherever he appeared, he was seen, according to the 
advice of St. Peter, completely clothed in humility : and though 
there was something singular in this truly Christian garb, yet 
its unaffected comeliness was universally acknowledged and 
admired. Many who think it necessary to appear before God 
in a state of humiliation, come forth from their closets, and 
walk into the world with an air of conscious superiority : as 
though it were possible, at the same time, to walk humbly before 
God, and haughtily in the presence of their fellow-creatures. 
But the man whose character I attempt to describe, was per- 
fectly consistent with himself. Such as he appeared before 
God in his private acts of devotion, such he appeared before 
men in every part of social and public life. He aspired not 
after high things, but condescended to men of low estate. His 
family and connexions, his attainments in science and in grace, 
with whatever else might be considered as tending to his advan- 
tage, he regarded as matters of trivial estimation : while, in the 
lowliness of Ins heart, he adopted the language of the great apos- 
tle • God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord 



334 



THE LIFE OP 



Jesus Christ, by zuhom ike world is crucified unto me, and I unto the 
world. In honour he preferred all men before himself, and 
never appeared so perfectly satisfied with his station as when 
his humble employments bespoke him the servant of all. So 
unlimited was his condescension in this respect, that he esteemed 
no occupation too low or degrading, by which he might benefit 
his neighbour, or by which he might testify respect either to 
God or man. 

22. "I cannot forbear relating here a little circumstance, 
which may perhaps appear trifling to some, but which uncom- 
monly affected me at the time it happened. Mr. Fletcher was 
called out to attend the sick, In the meantime a funeral was 
announced; and I was happy to embrace an opportunity of 
affording the least assistance to this venerable man, in the course 
of his extensive labours. While I was engaged in reading the 
Office on that occasion, Mr. Fletcher, who had heard at a dis- 
tance the call of the bells, hastily entered the church ; and as 
he passed up the aisle, observing that a young lad was officiating 
in the absence of the clerk, he instantly took his place, and 
went through the whole of the service, with a degree of hu- 
mility and composure that cannot be expressed. He after- 
ward assured me, that while he beheld me kindly performing 
the duty of an absent minister, he could not observe the place 
of an inferior servant of the church improperly filled up, with- 
out attempting to supply it himself, with a greater degree of 
decorum and reverence. 

23. " I shall here insert another anecdote to the same pur- 
pose. While Mr. Fletcher continued tutor to the young men 
at Tern-Hall, he usually attended the ministry of the Rev. Mr. 
Cartwright, pastor of a neighbouring church, a. man of whose 
piety and zeal he made frequent and honourable mention. It 
was the custom of this gentleman frequently to catechise, in 
public, the children of his parish. And on one of these occa- 
sions he requested that no person of maturer age, who stood in 
need of instruction, would esteem it a disgrace to appear in the 
number of the catechumens. When no one had condescension 
enough to occupy so mean a station ; Mr. Fletcher left his seat, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



335 



and with an air of unaffected modesty, took his place among the 
children \ giving a public proof, by the depth of his humility, 
that he was in an advanced state of preparation for the highest 
degrees of exaltation." 

24. It was owing to his humility that he was ever ready to 
acknowledge and repair his errors, if at any time he was 
betrayed into any thing that could bear that name, which cer- 
tainly was very seldom. " It is true," as Mr. Gilpin has re- 
marked,* " had he ever sat down to a sketch of his own life, an 
undertaking to which he was repeatedly urged by a multitude 
of his friends, it is most probable the world would then have 
been presented with a large detail of those defects which were 
scarcely apparent to any eye but his own. It is not meant to 
be insinuated here, that Mr. Fletcher was entirely free from 
those infirmities, by which, in different degrees, the most exalted 
characters have been tinctured. But it may be safely affirmed, 
that those few imperfections were so out-numbered and obscured 
by his uncommon excellencies, that they could not long detain 
the eye even of malice itself. The only defect in tiis cha- 
racter which ever fixed the attention, even of those who 
may be suspected to have passed by his merits without the 
regard they deserved, was a certain warmth in his temper, 
which has appeared upon a variety of occasions. But with 
respect to this acknowledged warmth, it must be allowed by all. 
that it was at no time discoverable in him, except when he was 
called forth to act, either as a lover of truth or a reprover of 
sin. In these two characters, indeed, he constantly appeared 
with a degree of zeal which gave offence to many ; but which 
was entirely consistent with his high reputation for meekness 
and charity. He was not ashamed, however, openly to confess 
and bewail this apparent defect ; and if ever it betrayed him 
into a mistake, he discovered the utmost solicitude, till he could 
make some suitable reparation. I shall content myself with 
presenting the reader with two instances of his conduct in this 
particular. 

* Potrraitj pa^e 163, 

y 



336 



THE LIFE OF 



25. " In one period of his life he considered himself obliged 
to wield the controversial pen. As the dispute was of impor- 
tance, so it was of long continuance, and maintained on all sides 
with a considerable degree of warmth. In the course of the 
controversy it was objected against our author, that he mana- 
ged the debate with an acrimonious severity, which was equally 
ill-adapted both to the nature of his cause, and the characters 
of his opponents. Though this charge might have been 
retorted upon some of his antagonists with tenfold force, yet 
he frankly admitted it on their part, and stood self-abased 
amidst the loudest plaudits of his friends. Before the dispute 
was completely terminated, his declining state of health obliged 
him to quit the kingdom v.ui very little hope of ever visiting 
it again. But he kfa&ct it ^possible to do this, without giving 
an intimation to his opponents that he desired nothing so much 
as an opportunity of embracing them before his departure, 
that, all doctrinal difference apart, he might testify his sincere 
regret on account of having given them the least displeasure, 
and receive from them some condescending assurance of recon- 
ciliation and good will-. Those of his antagonists who had 
generosity sufficient to accept his invitation, were equally 
affected and refreshed by the solemn interview that succeeded. 
And some of them, who before that time had no personal 
acquaintance with him, expressed the highest satisfaction at 
being introduced to the company of one, whose air and counte- 
nance bespoke him fitted rather for the society of angels than 
the conversation of men. 

" A second instance of the manner in which he acknow- 
ledged and repaired his mistakes, is as follows :— While he was 
one day interring a corpse, he was suddenly interrupted in his 
duty by a voice of execration and blasphemy. Instantly, with 
a look of holy indignation, he turned to that part of the multi- 
tude whence the voice appeared to proceed ; and, singling out, 
as he supposed, the guilty person, he publicly rebuked her in 
terms as severe as the nature of the offence demanded. After 
the service was concluded, he received information that his 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



v.. 



rebuke had been improperly directed — When he immediately 
recalled the people, who were then dispersing from the grave ; 
and pointing to the person whom he had unwittingly injured, 
he expressed the utmost concern at having confounded the inno- 
cent with the guilty, and declared, that as his error was public, 
so he desired publicly to solicit the pardon of the offended 
party. 

" These may serve as sufficient proofs of the candid and con- 
descending manner in which Mr. Fletcher was accustomed to 
acknowledge and repair those unintentional errors which nei- 
ther his wisdom nor piety could wholly prevent. ,, 

27. The same spirit of humility which made Mr. Fletcher 
so ready to acknowledge his own errors, induced him to throw 
the mantle of tender forbearance and forgiving love over 
those of others, especially of such as he had reason to belieye, 
notwithstanding their defects, were truly pious, and to discern 
and esteem the image of their heavenly Father in them. " His 
fellowship* with these was intimate and unreserved. He salu- 
ted them as the children of God, and honoured them as heirs 
of an eternal inheritance. These were the companions of his 
choice, both in public and in private : with these he took sweet 
and solemn counsel, and with these he rejoiced to worship in the 
house of God. Whether they were poor or rich, illiterate or 
learned, bond or free, he considered them as fellow-partakers of 
the same grace, and received them without partiality, as the 
redeemed of the Lord. He constantly watched over them for 
good, and eagerly embraced every opportunity of rendering 
them acceptable service. He bore their burdens, he distribu- 
ted to their necessities, he covered their defects, and healed 
their divisions. 

23. " Esteeming all the children of God, as members one of 
another, his catholic spirit disdained those unnatural partitions 
by which different parties of Christians have endeavoured to 
separate themselves from each other. Sincere worshippers, of 
evfery denomination, he regarded as fellow-citizens with the 



* Portrait, page 125. 
43 



33S THE LIFE OF 

• » 

saints, and of the household of God : desiring no greater honour 
than to be counted as their brother, and commanded as their 
servant. 

" The following are his own expressions : e God forbid that 
I should exclude from my brotherly affection, and occasional 
assistance, any true minister of Christ, because he casts the 
Gospel-net among the Presbyterians, the Independents, the 
Quakers, or the Baptists ! If they will not wish me good luck 
in the name of the Lord, I will do it to them. They may ex* 
communicate me, if their prejudices prompt them to it ; they 
may build up a wall of partition between themselves and me ; 
but in the strength of my God, whose love is as boundless as his 
immensity, / will leap over the wall? 

29. " Extraordinary as these declarations may appear, they 
are not to be considered as the professions of an affected gene- 
rosity, but as the sincere expressions of a heart overflowing 
with brotherly love. Fof, fully persuaded that a house divided 
against itself cannot stand, Mr. Fletcher was anxious to main- 
tain a state of uninterrupted peace and unanimity in the house- 
hold of God. As a fellow-citizen with the saints, he considered 
himself essentially interested in the weal or wo of his bre- 
thren, and was constantly observed, either mingling his tears 
with those who wept, or triumphing in the joy of such as rejoi- 
ced before God. Hence, he could not behold, as an uncon- 
cerned spectator, the distress to which the church was exposed 
in his day, and the dissentions by which it was torn in pieces ; 
but rather as a true disciple of that gracious Redeemer, who 
loved the church, and gave himself for it. He was engaged, 
indeed, in those great debates which disturbed the tranquillity of 
the religious world for so long a season ; and during those sharp 
contests, he appeared, it is true, in the very front of the battle. 
To all who knew him, however, it was sufficiently evident, that 
he entered not into the conflict with any design either to sig- 
nalize himself, or to establish the reputation of a party ; but 
rather to confirm and build up the church in her most holy faith. 
Zeal for God constrained him, upon this occasion, to take up a 
cross which he regarded as almost insupportable ; and when he 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



33? 



came forth from the retirement he loved, in the character of a 
public disputant, he came forth with the language of the evan- 
gelical prophet in his mouth : For Ziotfs sake, will I not hold my 
peace, and for Jerusalem's sake will I not rest, until the righteous- 
ness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a 
lamp that burneth. His attacks were constantly directed, not 
against the leaders of any particular sect, but against the errors 
of every sect : and in carrying on these attacks, he manifested a 
degree of impartiality and candour, which few have ever disco- 
vered in similar circumstances. While he cautiously exposed 
the apparent mistakes of his opponents, he put his own reli- 
gious opinions to a fiery trial ; and whatever was unable to stand 
the severest test he considered as no better than vanity and dross* 
Like the apostle Paul, he could do nothing knowingly against 
the truth, but for the truth : and on whatever side this was disco- 
verable, he saluted it with all that respect and veneration 
which effectually distinguished him as a lover of truth.* 

* Mr, ROWLAND HILL, in his Village Dialogues, after having ex- 
posed an ignorant Doctor, who had spoken of a milder law, " lowered down to 
be made more suitable to us in our corrupted state and had taught, u that 
God would now accept sincere instead of a perfect obedience ;" and that, there- 
fore, "he would put up with the innocent infirmities incident to flesh and blood ;" 
has the following note,— 

" This filthy, Antinomian expression, I well remember to have controverted 
many years ago, as I found it in one of the late Rev. Mr. Fletcher's Checks to 
Antinomianism ; the great advocate, (to say the best,) of the double-refined 
Semi-Pelagianism of the day : so inconsistent are those writers with them- 
selves 1 This old heresy, (whose proper nest is Popery,) has been revived in 
modern days under the name of Arminianism ; and the reader is requested to 
weigh the subject, whether their Antinomianism be not a thousand times worse 
than what they wantonly charge on others. I ask, whatever good may be found 
among individuals, yet what have these modern prevailing notions in general 
produced throughout all Christendom ? A system of infidelity has polluted the 
understanding, and therefore, it is no wonder, when they talk of the fruits of 
righteousness, that their fruits are found to be the apples of Sodom. "—Vol. Ill- 
p. 156. 4th Edition. 

Let the attentive and candid reader compare this note of Mr. Rowland HiH 
with Mr. Fletcher's " Appeal to Matter of Fact and Common Sense," on the 
subject of original sin, and he will easily see with what justice that gentlemau 
charges Mr. Fletcher with Semi-Pdagianism. Has any writer, sine* the d&JN 



340 



THE LIFE OF 



30. Through the whole contest he treated his opponent 3 
with much deference and regard, cordially acknowledging them 
as. brethren in Christ, and constantly mentioning them as per- 
sons whose piety and zeal could scarcely be paralleled. He 
ardently desired to embrace them as his companions in the king- 
dom and patience of their common Master ; and, as a standing 
proof of his pacific disposition towards them, one of the last 
pieces he published in the controversy was entitled, The Recon- 
ciliation : a work in which he urged the strongest motives to 
charity and concord, endeavouring, by every possible mean, to 
prevail with the professing part of the world, to keep the unity of 
the Spirit in the bond of peace. The following passage, selected 
from that work, will sufficiently evince, his utter detestation of 
party spirit and divisions in the Christian Church. " Come with 
me, my Calvinian and Arminian brethren, to the temple of 
Peace, where the Lord's banner over you will be love, and his 
mercy will comfort you on every side. If there be, therefore, any 
consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of 
the Spirit, if any bowels of mercies, fulfil ye the joy of all who 
wish Ziorfs prosperity : be like minded, having the same love? 
being of one accord, of one mind, submitting yourselves one to 
another in the fear of God. He is my record how greatly I long 
after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ; in whom there is 
neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, neither Calvinist nor Armi- 
nian, but Christ is all in alL My heart is enlarged; for a recom- 
pense in the same, be ye also enlarged, and grant me my humble, 
perhaps my dying request : reject not my plea for peace. If it 
be not strong, it is earnest ; for (considering my bodily weakness,) 
I write at the hazard of my life ; animamque in vulnere pono." 

of the apostles, represented the fallen state of man in a stronger light, or painted 
it in more expressive colours, than he has done in that tract ? Or has any one 
shown more clearly, or proved more convincingly, our need of regenerating and 
renewing grace ? And are not his Checks the greatest bulwark against Anti- 
uomianism, next to the Holy Scriptures, of any publications in the English 
language ? As to his practice, perhaps a more holy man never appeared in this 
country. — For a confutation of this most unmerited, and I may say, groundless 
insinuation, the reader is referred to the Methodist Magazine for January 1805 ; 
and to the whole of Mr, Fletcher's publications on divine subjects. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



34$ 



• Such was the catholic spirit discovered by this great man, 
in the warmest of his religious contentions ; such was the for- 
bearance and affection which he constantly exercised towards 
the most zealous of his opposers ; and such was his anxious con- 
cern, that every inferior name might be lost in that exalted 
Name, by which alone the world can be saved, saying, in the 
language of his Master, Whosoever shall do the zcill of my Father 
that is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." 

31. In the meantime, however, he was far frdm betraying 
what he knew to be the truth, or from manifesting any backward- 
ness to stand forth in its defence. — " Truth," says our author/ 
" although she has many professed admirers, yet seldom finds a 
steady follower, and still less frequently a resolute defender. 
Without a solid understanding, an upright heart, and an uncon- 
querable resolution, no man is properly qualified to maintain 
the rights of truth. He that is void of understanding, will never 
discover the worth of truth : he that is destitute of an upright 
heart, will feel but little attachment to truth, notwithstanding all 
her worth ; while he that is of an irresolute temper, will rather 
desert her standard than suffer in her cause. Balaam was emi- 
nently distinguished by a spirit of discernment, but was desti- 
tute of an upright heart; Peter was possessed of an upright 
heart, but betrayed, on a memorable occasion, the want of an 
undaunted spirit ; Saul, the Pharisee, though remarkable for his 
uprightness and resolution, was miserably defective with respect 
to spiritual discernment; while Paul, the apostle, uniting in 
his character these several qualifications, became a zealous 
and steady defender of truth." It would be difficult to say in 
which of these three qualifications Mr. Fletcher principally ex- 
celled ; so happily proportioned was his sincerity to his discern- 
ment, and the firmness of his resolution to the uprightness of his 
heart ! Thus remarkably furnished for the service of truth, he 
engaged himself in her cause with an extraordinary degree of 
activity and zeal, earnestly desiring to see the uttermost parts of 
+he earth illuminated with her beams, and the inhabitants of 



* Portrait, page 220. 



THE LiFE OF 



every country submitting to her authority. Wherever he came ; 
he exalted her honours, and bore testimony to her matchless 
worth, making mention of her ways, as ways of pleasantness, and 
recommending her paths, as paths of peace. 

32. " Whenever he saw spiritual truth triumphant, he re- 
joiced at the sight as one that findeth great spoil: when he 
beheld her despised and rejected, he cheerfully shared her dis- 
grace, and suffered in her cause. If her excellencies were at 
any time obscured by the misconceptions of the ignorant, he 
endeavoured to dissipate that obscurity, and exhibit her to the 
world in all her native lustre. If he saw her assaulted, he 
voluntarily exposed himself to danger in her defence : and 
whether the attack was made by mistaken friends, or inveterate 
enemies, he opposed it, as a man wholly proof against the un- 
due influence of prejudice or interest, resentment of respect. 
In all his struggles for truth, he contended with confidence, but 
without obstinacy ; with zeal, but not with bitterness ; in meek- 
ness instructing those that opposed themselves, if God, per adven- 
ture^ might give them repentance to the acknowledging of the 
truth* If the error he discovered was merely of a circumstan- 
tial nature, he pursued it with less severity ; but if it was a 
fundamental error, he opposed it with a holy vehemence, giving 
it no quarter, till it was allowed, by the candid and impartial, to 
be absolutely untenable : in the meantime, making it abun- 
dantly manifest, by his modest and courteous deportment, that 
he contended not for the acquisition of victory ; but for the 
exaltation of truth. 

33. " His ardent attachment to divine truth would not permit 
him to hear, in silence, the least insinuation that might be thrown 
out to the disadvantage of Christianity. And in some compa- 
nies he thought it necessary to call upon the avowed despisers 
of Revelation either to establish or retract the charges they 
had exhibited against the religion of Jesus. In England he 
very rarely mixed with persons of an irreligious conversation 5 
but in his passage through other countries he was frequently 
obliged to associate with men of a character altogether opposite 
to his own. In Italy, France, and Holland, he has taken his 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHEE. 



343 



seat, with a steady composure, among Deists, Socinians, and 
Freethinkers ; and after vainly endeavouring, in the politest 
manner, to introduce a conversation respecting divine truth, 
has been often constrained to signify his desire of exchanging an 
argument with any gentleman in company, on the subject of 
Natural Religion. As these offers were always made in the 
most graceful terms, they were frequently accepted in a becom- 
ing manner, when a conversation has usually taken place, suf* 
ficiently interesting to excite the curiosity and engage the atten- 
tion of every person present. Upon every occasion of this 
nature, he appeared perfectly dispassionate and recollected, dis- 
covering an accurate acquaintance with every part of his sub- 
ject, and never failing to foil his strongest antagonists upon their 
own ground. And in the close of every such debate, he was 
careful to recapitulate the principal arguments which had been 
advanced by either party, in the course of the contest ; ascribing 
the victory he had obtained to the irresistible power of truth, 
and enumerating the special advantages of Revealed, over Na- 
tural Religion." 

34. We have noticed Mr. Fletcher's affection for the chil- 
dren of God : we must now observe, that while he loved them 
with a pure heart fervently in proportion as he conceived they 
severally exhibited the excellencies and perfections of their 
Creator ; he looked upon every individual of the human race 
with emotions of benevolence and charity. For in all he dis- 
covered some traces of the image of the Deity, although de - 
faced and obscured, which merited attention even in ruins. 
" His love was free and unconfined, uninterrupted by prejudice, 
and unmixed by suspicion.* He had a place in his large and 
generous heart for persons of every description. He considered 
himself as related to the inhabitants of every nation, and con- 
nected with the members of every church : appearing, in every 
sense, as a citizen of the world, honouring the whole human 
race as the offspring of God, and encircling them all with the 
3xms of brotherly affection, however distinguished from one ano- 



* Portrait, page 121. 



344 



THE LIFE OF 



ther by situation or endowments, opinions or habits. He. never 
left his beloved retirement, which was rendered sacred by con- 
verse with the highest object of his affections, unless he was 
called abroad upon errands of kindness and mercy. And 
whenever he came forth into the world, he looked upon all 
around him with an air of benignity and a glow of affection, 
which strongly marked him as a follower of that God who is 
loving unto every man, and whose mercy is over all his works. 

" Instead of inquiring, with the lawyer in the Gospel, Who 
is my neighbour? he acted like the good Samaritan, treating 
even the stranger and the outcast, as he journeyed through 
life, with the kindness of a neighbour, the sympathy of a friend, 
and the tenderness of a brother. While self-love may be likened 
to a stagnant lake, the charity of this self-renouncing pastor may 
be fitly compared to a copious river, which, after enriching a 
multitude of towns, villages, and hamlets, and after fertilizing a 
thousand fields, loses itself in the bosom of the ocean, from 
whence it sprung. And here it may be properly observed, that 
this noble current was sufficiently deep to sustain any burden, 
and sufficiently rapid to force itself a passage through every 
obstruction. 

His love was without dissimulation, not in word, neither in 
tongue, but in deed, and in truth. It was larger than his lar- 
gest professions, and appeared, on different occasions, in a vast 
variety of forms ; in condescension, in compassion, in hospi- 
tality, in forbearance, in kindness, and in liberality. By these 
benevolent dispositions, together with those affectionate labours 
in which he was constantly employed, he gave the most con- 
vincing proofs, that he was rooted and grounded in that univer- 
sal love, which is the fulfilling of the whole law." 

35. The source of all these graces, which shone so conspi- 
cuous in him, was his piety. " But this* was of too exalted a 
nature to admit of any adequate description. They who saw 
him only at a distance, revered him as a man of God ; while 
they who enjoyed a nearer acquaintance with him, were held 



* Portrait, page 35, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



345 



in a state of constant admiration at his attainments in the divine 
life. — He appeared to enjoy an uninterrupted fellowship with 
the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Every day was 
with him a day of solemn self-dedication, and every hour an 
hour of praise or prayer. Naturally formed for pre-eminence, 
no common degrees of grace were sufficient to satisfy his un- 
bounded desires. He towered above the generality of Chris- 
tians, earnestly desiring the best gifts, and anxious to walk in 
the most excellent way. While others are content to taste the 
living stream, he traced that stream to its source, and lived at 
the fountain-head of blessedness. He was familiar with invi- 
sible objects, and constantly walked as in the presence of God. 
To those who were much conversant with him, he appeared as 
an inhabitant of a better world ; so perfectly dead was he to 
the enjoyments of the present life, and so wholly detached 
from its anxious cares !-— wherever he was called, by the provi- 
dence of God, he was acknowledged as a burning and shining 
light. The common lights of Christians were eclipsed before 
him ; and even his spiritual friends could never stand in his 
presence, without being overwhelmed with a consciousness of 
their own inferiority and unprofitableness. — While they have 
seen him rising, as it were, upon the wings of an eagle, they 
have been confounded at their inability to pursue his flight ; 
and while he has given way to the emotions of his fervent love, 
they have blushed at their own ingratitude and lukewarmness. 
The candle of the Lord eminently shone upon his head, and the 
secret of God was upon his tabernacle. When he zvent out through 
the city, or took his seat in the company of the righteous, he 
was saluted with unusual reverence, and received as an angel 
of dod. The young men sazo him and hid themselves, and the 
aged arose and stood up. Even those who were honoured as 
princes among the people of God, refrained talking, and laid 
their hand upon their mouth. When the ear heard him, then it 
blessed him ; and when the eye saw him, it gave witness to him. 

• 36. " His character was free from those inconsistencies 
which are too generally observable among the professors of 
Christianity. Whether he sat in the house, or whether he 

44 



346 



THE LIFE OF 



walked by the way ; in his hours of retirement, and in hi§ 
public labours ; he was constantly actuated by the same spirit. 
When he spoke, his conversation was in heaven : and the 
hearts of his intimate friends still burn within them on every 
recollection of the gracious words that proceeded out of his 
mouth. When he was silent,- — his very air and countenance 
bespoke an angelic mind absorbed in the contemplation of 
God. When he was engaged in the ordinary actions of life, 
he performed them with such a becoming seriousness, that they 
assumed a striking and important appearance. In all the 
changing circumstances of life, he looked and acted like a man 
whose treasure was laid up in heaven. There his affections 
were immoveably fixed, and thitherward he was continually 
tending with all the powers of his soul : he spoke of it as the 
subject of his constant meditation, and looked to it as travellers 
to their appointed home. At times, when the pious breathings 
of his soul were too forcible to be repressed, he would break 
forth into expressions of adoration among his spiritual associ- 
ates, and cry out, while tears of joy were bursting from his 
eyes, — My God ! My Saviour ! Thou art mine ! A wretch 
unworthy of thy notice! Yet thou hast visited me with thy 
mercy, and honoured me with thy favour! I adore thine unfa- 
thomable love ! Ye who have tasted of his grace, assist me to 
magnify his name. He was an instrument always in tune : and 
none can tell, but those who have heard, how sweetly it would 
answer to the touch of him that strung it. He was an instru- 
ment of uncommon compass, and wondrously adapted to every 
occasion. Every breath that swept over the cords of this 
living lyre, drew from it some according sound : if from man, 
it produced strains of affection and sympathy ; if from God, it 
called forth higher sounds of gratitude and devotion. His piety 
suffered no event to pass by unimproved. Every object led 
him into the presence of God, and every occurrence gave rise 
to a train of serious reflections." 

37. One tiling more, particularly noticed by the Reverend 
author of these excellent traits of our pious friend's character, 
is the perseverance of his piety, zeal, and diligence to the end 



THE RE.V. JOHN FLETCHER* 



347 



of his life. " It is no unusual thing," he observes,* " to behold 
the professors of Christianity divested, at a maturer age, of 
that burning love, and that irresistable zeal, by which they 
were peculiarly distinguished in early life. Of the many 
thousands who have, in every age, begun the sacred race with 
an apparent determination to obtain the prize, the greater part, 
either wearied with the inconveniences of the way, or delu- 
ded by the suggestions of the world, if they have not alto- 
gether forsaken the path of life, have proceeded in it with so 
much irresolution and weakness, that at the conclusion of their 
course, it has remained a matter of much uncertainty, whether 
they have reached or fallen short of the mark of their high 
calling. With Mr. Fletcher it was wholly the reverse. The 
resolution that at first engaged him to enter upon the Christian 
course, appeared, not only without any diminution, but with 
increasing vigour, through the several stages of his rapid pro- 
gress. He outran the most zealous of his companions, he 
overtook many who were steadily persevering in the path of 
life, and appeared at the head of those who were pressing after 
the highest attainable state of sanctity and grace. From the 
commencement to the conclusion of his pilgrimage, there was 
never once perceived in him the least imaginable tendency to 
a loitering or lukewarm disposition : if he was not every 
moment actually upon the stretch after spiritual improvement* 
he was observed, at least, with his loins girded, his shoes on his 
feet, and his staff in his hand. The fervour of his spirit was a 
silent, but sharp reproof to the negligent and unfaithful : and 
so perfectly averse was he to every species of trifling, that no 
man of a light or indolent spirit could possibly associate with 
him for any length of time. 

38. " As he approached the end of his course, the graces 
he had kept in continual exercise for so long a season became 
more illustrious and powerful : his faith was more assured, his 
hope more lively, his charity more abundant, his humility 
more profound, and his resignation more complete. Planted^ 



* Portrait, page 327. 



348 



THE LIFE Of 



at an early age, in the house of the Lord, he flourished in the 
courts of our God through all the remaining years of his life, 
growing up like a palm tree, and spreading abroad like a cedar 
in Lebanon : and if the fruit that he brought forth in his age 
was not more plenteous than that which he had produced in 
former years, (which was surely impossible) yet it was more 
happily matured, and more equally distributed among his luxu- 
riant branches. To those who were intimately conversant with 
him at this season he appeared as a scholar of the highest 
attainments in the school of Christ ; or rather" as a regenerate 
spirit in his latest state of preparation for the kingdom of God : 
and this extraordinary eminence in grace was discoverable in 
him, not from any high external professions of sanctity, but 
from that meekness of wisdom, that purity of conversation, and 
that lowliness of mind, by which his whole carriage was uni- 
formly distinguished. 

39. " For some years before his decease, he expressed a 
continual desire, that his labours and his life might be terminated 
together : and with respect to his resigned prayer in this mat- 
ter, the assertion of the Psalmist was strikingly verified, — The 
Lord 7oi 1 1 fulfil the desire of them that fear him. His zeal for 
the glory of God appeared with undiminished fervour, and his 
diligence in rilling up the duties of his vocation, continued 
with unabating vigour, till within a few days of his removal 
into Abraham's bosom. Instead of outliving his zeal and dili- 
gence in the best of causes, it may truly be said, that he fell an 
honourable martyr to his indefatigable exertions in the service 
of the church : since it was from the beds of the diseased and 
the dying, that he brought away with him the infectious dis- 
temper which put so unexpected a period to his labours. But 
even after the symptoms of this distemper had appeared suffi- 
ciently alarming to awaken the apprehensions of his friends, 
they were unable either to damp his zeal, or to control his 
activity : his declining sun was to set, not in obscurity and con- 
fusion, but with that mild and steady lustre, which might be 
token something of its future glory.' 5 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



340 



CHAPTER XI. 

His Character, by Mrs. Fletcher, and others. 

1. HAVING, in the preceding chapter, presented the reader 
with the character of Mr. Fletcher, drawn by the masterly 
pen of the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, a near neighbour and intimate 
friend, who knew him well, I shall now offer to his considera- 
tion, one equally just and striking, drawn by a person still more 
intimate with him, and more thoroughly acquainted with his 
manner of life, and the most secret springs of his whole deport- 
ment. " From Mrs. Fletcher," as Mr. Wesley has observed, 
" he concealed nothing. They had no secrets with regard to 
each other, but had indeed one house, one purse, and one 
heart. Before her it was his invariable rule to think aloud : 
always to open the window in his breast. And to this we are 
indebted for the knowledge of many particulars, which must 
otherwise have been buried in oblivion." 

2. The following are mostly her own words, for where they 
are clear and expressive, as they generally are, it is not judged 
right to alter them for altering's sake. 

" Whatever he might be with regard to charity," says she, 
% he was no less eminent for the spirit of faith. Indeed he was 
not so much influenced by impressions, (which many mistake for 
faith,) as abundance of people have been ; but by a steady, firm 
reliance upon the love, and truth, and faithfulness of God. His 
ardent desire was, so to believe, as to become a partaker of all 
the great and precious promises : to be a witness of all that 
mind which was in Christ Jesus. And being conscious that he 
must be crucified with his Master, or never reign with him, he 
gave himself up to Him, to lie in his hand as the passive clay. 
He would often say, £ It is my business, in all events, to hang 
upon the Lord, with a sure trust and confidence, that he will 
order all things for the' best, as to time and manner. Indeed it 
would be easy to be a believer 5 nay, in truth, there would be no 



350 



THE LIFE OF 



room for faith, if every thing were seen here. But against hope 
to believe in hope : to have a full confidence in that unseen 
Power, which so mightily supports us in all our dangers and dif- 
ficulties, this is the believing which is acceptable to God.' 
Sometimes when I have expressed some apprehension of an 
approaching trial, he would answer, 4 1 do not doubt but the 
Lord orders all wisely ; therefore I leave every thing to Him. 1 * 
In outward dangers, if they were ever so great, he seemed to 
know no shadow of fear. When I was speaking once, concern- 
ing a danger, to which we were then particularly exposed, he 
answered, 4 1 know God always gives his angels charge concern- 
ing us : therefore we are equally safe every where.' 

3. " Not less eminent than his faith was his humility. Amidst all 
his labours for God, and for the good of souls, he ever preserved 
that special grace, the making no account of his own labours. 
He held himself and his own abilities, in very low esteem ; 
and seemed to have that word continually before his eyes, £ I 
am an unprofitable servant.' And this humility was so rooted 
in him, as to be moved by no affront. I have known man,y, 
even of the most provoking kind, offered him : but he received 
them as his proper portion ; being so far from desiring the honour 
which cometh of men, that he took pleasure in being little and 
unknown." " Perhaps it might appear," observes Mr. Wesley, 
1{ from some passages of his life, that in this he even leaned to 
an extreme. For genuine humility does not require, that any 
man should desire to be despised* Nay, we are to avoid it, so far 
as we possibly can, consistently with a good conscience ; for 
that direction, Let no man despise, thee, concerns every man, 
as well as Timothy." 

" It is rare," proceeds Mrs. Fletcher, " to meet with an emi- 
nent person who can bear an equal. But it was his choice and 
his delight to prefer every one to himself. And this he did in 
so free and easy a manner, that in him it appeared perfectly 
natural. He never willingly suffered any unkindness shown to 
him to be mentioned again : and if it were, he generally an- 
swered, 6 let it drop ; we will offer it in silence to the Lord.' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



351 



And indeed the best way of bearing crosses, is to present them 
all in silence to God. 

4. " From this root of humility sprung such patience as I 
wish I could either describe or imitate. It produced in him a 
mind most ready to embrace every cross with alacrity and plea- 
sure. For the good of his neighbour, nothing seemed hard, 
nothing wearisome. Sometimes I have been grieved to call 
him out of his study two or three times in an hour : especially 
when he was engaged in composing some of his most important 
works. But he would answer, with his usual sweetness, ' O 
my dear, never mind that. It matters not, if we are but ready 
to meet the will of God. It is conformity to the will of God 
that alone makes an employment excellent.' He never thought 
any thing too mean, but sin 5 he looked on nothing else as 
beneath his character. If he overtook a poor man or woman 
on the road, with a burden too heavy for them, he did not fail 
to oner his assistance to bear part of it. And he would not 
easily take a denial. This proof indeed of condescension and 
kindness he has frequently given. 

In bearing pain he was most exemplary, and continued to be 
more and more so to the last. Nor was his descending to the 
capacities of the ignorant, the least remarkable, or least hum- 
bling part of his ministry. — And he had a most resolute courage 
in the reproving of sin. To daring sinners, it is well known, he 
was a son of thunder ! and no worldly considerations were re- 
garded, whenever he believed God had given him a message to 
deliver to any of them. 

5. " One considerable part of humility is, to know our own 
places, and stand therein. Every member has its peculiar ap- 
pointment in the human body, where the wise Creator has 
placed it. And it is well that each should continue in its place. 
For every dislocated bone gives pain, and causes disorder, and 
must continue so to do, till it be replaced in its proper socket. 
Just so, every dislocated affection or disposition must occasion 
disorder, and give pain to the soul, till it be restored to its own 
place ; till it be entirely fixed on, or resigned to God ; till a poi- 
son give his whole self to the disposal of Infinite Wisdom. 



352 



THE LIFE OF 



This is the proper place of every rational creature ; and in this 
place he invariably stood. Whatever he believed to be the will 
of God he resolutely performed, though it were to pluck out a 
right eye, or to lay his Isaac on the altar. When it appeared 
that God called him to any journey, he immediately prepared 
for it without the least hesitation : although for the last three or 
four years of his life, he hardly ever travelled to any consider- 
able distance without feeling some tendency to a relapse into 
his former disorder. And it was generally some weeks after his 
return before he recovered his usual strength." 

6. His disengagedness from the world and love of the poor, 
Mrs. Fletcher joins together. " Never," says she, " did I be- 
hold any one more dead to the things of the world. His trea- 
sure was above ; and so was his heart also. He always remem- 
bered that admonition of the apostle, JVb man that zoarreth, 
mtangleth himself with the things of this world. It was his con- 
stant endeavour to preserve a mind free and disencumbered : 
and he was exceeding wary of undertaking any business that 
might distract and hurry it. Nevertheless, in his worldly con- 
cerns, knowing himself to be a steward for God, he would not, 
through carelessness, waste one penny. He likewise judged it 
to be his bounden duty to demand what he knew to be his right. 
And yet he could well reconcile this with that word, He that 
will have thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.* But whether he 
had less or more, it was the same thing upon his own account : 
as he had no other use for it, after frugally supplying his own 
wants, and the wants of those dependent on him, but to spread 
the Gospel, and assist the poor. And he frequently said he 
was never happier than when he had given away the last 
penny he had in his house. If at any time I had gold in my 
drawers, it seemed to afford him no comfort. But if he could 
find a handful of small silver when he was going out to see the 
sick, he would express as much pleasure over it, as a miser 

* The income of his living was not ou an average, more than a hundred 
pounds per annum. For many of the people called Quakers living in his parish, 
believed it unlawful to pay tithes ; and Mr. Fletcher did not choose to take from 
them by force, what they did not think it lawful to give him. 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



353 



would in discovering a bag of hid treasure. He was never 
better pleased with my employment than when he had set me 
to prepare food or physic for the poor. He was hardly able to 
relish his dinner if some sick neighbour had not a part of it ; 
and sometimes, when any of them was in want, 1 could not keep 
the linen in his drawers. On Sundays he provided for numbers 
of people who came from a distance to hear the word : and his 
house as well as his heart was devoted to their convenience. 
To relieve them that were afflicted in body and mind, was the 
delight of his heart. Once a poor man, who feared God, being 
brought into great difficulties, he took down all the pewter from 
the kitchen shelves, saying, 4 This will help you, and I can do 
without it : a wooden trencher will serve me just as well.' In 
epidemic and contagious distempers, when the neighbours were 
afraid to nurse the sick, he has gone from house to house, seek- 
ing some that were willing to undertake that office. And when 
none could be found, he has offered his service to sit up with 
them himself. But this was at his first coming to Madeley, 
At present there is in many, (and has been for many years^} a 
most ready mind to visit and relieve the distressed. 

7. 44 He thoroughly complied with that advice, — 

6 Give to all something : to a good, poor man, 
Till thou change hands, and be where he began/ 5 

i have heard him say, that when he lived alone in his house, 
the tears have come into his eyes, when five or six insignificant 
letters have been brought him, at three or four pence apiece ; 
and perhaps he had only a single shilling in the house to distri- 
bute among the poor, to whom he was going. He frequently 
said to me, 4 O Polly, can we not do without beer ? Let us drink 
water, and eat less meat. Let our necessities give way to the 
extremities of the poor.' 

8. 44 But with all his generosity and charity, he was strictly 
careful to follow the advice of the apostle, Owe no man any- 
thing. He contracted no debt. While he gave all he had, he 
made it a rule to pay ready money for every thing : believing. 

45 



THE LIFE OF 



this was the best way to keep the mind unencumbered and 
free from care. Meanwhile his substance, his strength, his life, 
were devoted to the service of the poor. And last of all, he 
gave me to them. For when we were married, he asked me 
solemnly, ' Whether I was willing to marry his parish ? And the 
first time he led me among his people in this place, he said, I 
have not married this wife only for myself but for you, I asked 
her of the Lord for your comfort, as well as my own. 

9. " All his life, as well as during his illness, particularly at 
Newington and Brislington, (as has been largely related,) he 
was grateful, in a very high degree, to those who conferred the 
least benefit upon him, yea, or even endeavoured so to do. 55 

It will be pleasing and edifying to the reader to see how he 
was wont to express his gratitude on these occasions. To one 
he says, " Your absence made me postpone thanking you for 
all the kindness you showed me when at Bristol ; and to lay me 
under still greater obligations, you have sent me a hamper of 
wine, and broad cloth ; as if it were not enough to adorn and 
cover the outside, but you must also warm and nourish the 
inside of the body* 

" I have now the opportunity of telling you, without further 
delay, that you should have a little mercy on your friends, in 
not loading them with such burdens of beneficence. How 
would you like to be loaded with kindnesses you could not re- 
turn ? Were it not for a* little of that grace which makes us 
not only willing, but happy, to be nothing — to be obliged and 
dependant — your present would make me quite miserable. But 
the mountains of divine mercy which press down my soul, have 
inured me to bear the hills of brotherly kindness. 

" I submit to be clothed and nourished by you, as your ser- 
vants are, without having the happiness of serving you. To 
yield to this is as hard to friendship, as to submit to be saved by 
free grace, without one scrap of our own righteousness. How- 
ever, we are allowed, both in religion and friendship, to ease 
ourselves by thanks and prayers, till we have an opportunity of 
doing it by actions. I thank you then, my dear friend, and 
pray to God that you may receive his benefits as I do yours, 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



355 



Your broad cloth can lap me round two or three times ; but the 
mantle of divine love, the precious fine robe of Jesus's righteous- 
ness, can cover your soul a thousand times. The cloth, fine and 
good as it is, will not keep out a hard shower ; but that garment 
of salvation will keep out a shower of brimstone and fire. 
Your cloth will wear out, but that fine linen, the righteousness 
of the saints, will appear with a finer lustre the more it is worn. 
The moth may fret your present, or the tailor may spoil it in 
cutting ; but the present which Jesus has made you is out of the 
reach of the spoiler, and ready for present wear; nor is there 
any fear of cutting it out wrong ; for it is seamless, woven from 
the top throughout, with the white unbroken warp of thirty- 
three years perfect obedience, and the red weft of his agony and 
sufferings unto death. 

" Now, my dear friend, let me beseech you to accept of 
this heavenly present, as 1 accept of your earthly one. I did not 
send you one farthing to purchase it ; it came unsought, unasked, 
unexpected, as the Seed of the woman ; and it came just as I 
was sending a tailor to buy me some cloth for a new coat ; imme- 
diately I stopped him, and I hope when you next see me, it will 
be in your present. Now let Jesus see you in his. Walk in 
white : adorn his Gospel, while he beautifies you with the gar- 
ment of salvation. Accept it freely : wear no more the old, 
rusty coat of nature and self-righteousness : send no more to 
have it patched :* make your boast of an unbought suit ; and love 
to wear the livery of Jesus. You will then love to do his 
work : it will be your meat and drink to do it : and that you 
may be vigorous in doing it, as I shall take a little of your 
wine for my stomach's sake, take you a good deal of the wine 
of the kingdom for your soul's sake. Every promise of the 
Gospel is a bottle, a cask, that has a spring within, and can never 
be drawn out. But draw the cork of unbelief, and drink abun 
dantly, O beloved, nor be afraid of intoxication ; and if an 
inflammation follow, it will only be that of divine love. 

* Mr. Fletcher's generous friend had kindly requested him not to send hi* 
coat to be patched ; hence this ingenious and affectionate reply 



356 



THE LIFE ©F 



" I beg you will be more free with the heavenly wine, than 
I have been with the earthly, which you sent me ; I have not 
tasted it yet, but whose fault is it ? Not yours oertainly, but 
mine. If you do not drink daily spiritual health and vigour out 
of the cup of salvation, whose fault is it ? Not Jesus's, but 
yours ; for he gives you his righteousness to cover your naked- 
ness, and the consolations of his Spirit to cheer and invigorate 
your souL Accept and use. Wear, drink, and live to God. 
That you may heartily and constantly do this, is my sincere 
prayer for you and yours." 

To the same, he writes at another time. " I thank you, my 
dear friend, for all your favours, and all your attention to me. 
Your more than fraternal love covers me with confusion, and 
fills me with acknowledgments. What returns shall I make ? 
I will drink the cup of thanksgiving, and I will bless the name of 
the Lord. I will thank my dear friend, and wish him all the 
temporal blessings he has conferred upon me, and all those spi- 
ritual ones which were not in his power to bestow. Live in 
health ; live piously ; live content ; live in Christ ; live for eter- 
nity ; live to make your wife, your children, your servants, your 
neighbours happy, as far as their happiness depends on you ; and 
may the God of all grace give back a hundred fold to you and 
your dear wife, all the kindnesses with which you have loaded 
me ! The Lord make you happy as a father, a master, and a 
Christian ! The God of peace be with you without interruption !" 

To another, his language on some similar occasion is ; " Your 
kind letter I received in the beginning of the week, and your 
kind present at the end of it. For both 1 heartily thank you ; 
nevertheless, I could wish it were your last present, for I find it 
more blessed to give than to receive, and in point of the good 
things of this life, my body does not want much, and I can do 
with what is more common, and cheaper than the rarities you 
ply me with. 

" Your bounty upon bounty reminds me of the repeated mer- 
cies of our God. They follow one another as wave does wave 
at sea ; and all to waft us to the pleasing shore of confidence 



THE REV* JOHN FLETCHER. 



357 



and gratitude, where we can not only cast anchor near, but; 
calmly stand on the Rock of Ages, and defy the rage of tem- 
pests." 

10. " Another uncommon talent which God had given him," 
says Mrs. Fletcher, " was a peculiar sensibility of spirit. He 
had a temper the most feeling of any I ever knew. Hardly a 
night passed over, but some part of it was spent in groans for 
the souls and bodies committed to his care. I dreaded his hear- 
ing either of the sins or sufferings of any of his people, before 
the time of his going to bed, knowing how strong the impres- 
sions would be on his mind, chasing sleep from his eyes* 

" And yet I have heard him speak of a time, twelve or four- 
teen years ago, when he was greatly tempted to think that he 
was not sensible enough of the afflictions of his fellow-creatures. 
He thought Christ bore our infirmities, and carried our sorrows : 
but, said he, 4 1 have not that Christ-like temper : I do not bear 
the sorrows of others.' After being for some time buffeted with 
this temptation, he prayed that a measure of this spirit might be 
given to him. Not long after, as he was visiting a poor sick 
family, so lively a sense of their affliction on a sudden fell upon 
his mind, that he could scarce get home. As soon as he sat 
down in his house, his soul was penetrated with such a sense of 
the woes of mankind as utterly depressed and overcame him, 
and drank up his spirits, insomuch that he could not help him- 
self, nor move from one chair to another ; and he was no more 
able to walk or help himself, than a new-born child. At the 
same time he seemed to lose the use of his memory, and of all 
his faculties. He thought, What is this ? Is it a disease ? Is it a 
stroke of the palsy ? Rather is it not an answer to my own ill- 
judged, though well-intended prayer ? Did I not ask a burden 
unsuitable to a finite, and capable of being borne only by an 
infinite Being ? He remained some hours in this situation. 
Then it came into his mind, If this be a purely natural event, 
the will of the Lord be done ! But if it be the answer to an 
improper prayer, God will answer again by removing it. He 
cried to the Lord, and was restored to strength both of body 
and mind. 



358 



THE LIFE OF 



11. " When we were at Leeds in the year 1 784, 1 had another 
proof of the tender sensibility of his heart. O how deeply 
was he affected for the welfare of his brethren ! When any little 
disputes arose between them, his inmost soul groaned under the 
burden. And by two or three o'clock in the morning, I was 
sure to hear him breathing out prayers for the peace and pros* 
perity of Sion. When I observed to him, I was afraid it would 
hurt his health, and wished him to sleep more, he would answer, 
5 O Polly, the cause of God lies near my heart !' 

" Towards me, his tenderness was exerted in its utmost ex- 
tent. My soul, my body, my health, my ease and comfort, 
were his daily study. We had no thought, either past or pre- 
sent, which we purposely concealed^ from each other. My spi* 
ritual advancement was his constant endeavour ; and to this he 
was continually stirring me up, inviting me to walk more closely 
with God ; urging that thought, ' O my dear, let us pray for 
dying grace ; for we shall not be here long.' His temporal 
affairs he committed solely to me, though he was always ready 
to assist me in the smallest matters. 

12. " One article more remains to be spoken of, namely, his 
communion zvith God, Although he enjoyed this, more or less, 
at all times, and in all places, yet I have frequently heard him 
observe that the seasons of his closest communion were always 
in his own house, or in the church : usually in the latter. It is 
much to be lamented that we have no account of it from his own 
pen. It was his constant endeavour to set the Lord before him, 
and to maintain an uninterrupted sense of his presence. In 
order to this, he was slow of speech, and had the greatest 
government of his words. Indeed he both acted, and spoke, 
and thought, as under the eye of God. And thus he remained 
unmoved in all occurrences ; at all times and on every occasion 
possessing inward recollection. Nor did I ever see him divert- 
ed therefrom on any occasion whatever, either going out or 
coming in, whether by ourselves or in company. Sometimes 
he took his journeys alone ; but above a thousand miles I have 
travelled with him : during which neither change of company, 
nor of place, nor the variety of circumstances which naturally 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCIlEft. 



359 



occur in travelling, ever seemed to make the least difference 
in his firm attention to the presence of God. To preserve this 
uniform habit of soul, he was so watchful and recollected, that 
to such as were unexperienced in these things, it might appear 
like insensibility. But no one could converse in a more lively 
and sensible manner, even on natural things, when he saw it was 
to the glory of God. He was always striving to raise his own, 
and every other spirit, to a close and immediate intercourse 
with God. And I can say with truth, all his union with me 
was so intermingled with prayer and praise, that every employ- 
ment, and every meal, was, as it were, perfumed therewith." 

1 3. I subjoin to the above an extract of a letter which I 
wrote to Mr. Wesley in the year 1786, concerning the charac- 
ter of Mr. Fletcher, and which was published in the former edi~ 
tion of his Life. For although, as Mr. Wesley observed, most 
of the particulars thereof are contained in the preceding pages, 
yet as they are here placed in another order, and have also seve- 
ral new circumstances intermixed, it is hoped they will be both 
agreeable and profitable to every person of piety. 

As to draining the Btiaracter of that great and good man, as 
I then observed, it is what I will not attempt : but if I can 
suggest any thing that will assist the reader to form a proper 
idea of, and excite him to imitate his excellencies, I shall think 
my little labour well bestowed. With this view I have looked 
over most of his letters, and observe in them all, what I have a 
thousand times observed in his conversation and behaviour, the 
plainest marks of every Christian grace and virtue. 

Perhaps if he followed his Master more closely in one thing 
than another, it was in poverty of spirit. It is one branch of 
this to think meanly of ourselves. And he certainly thought 
thus of himself in every respect ; as a Christian, as a Preacher. 
and as a Writer. I need not say how he shone in all those 
characters ; but he knew not that he shone in any of them. 
How low an opinion he had of himself manifestly appears from 
his placing himself at the feet of all, and showing a continual 
desire to learn from every company he was in. He paid all due 
deference to the judgment of others, readily acknowledged 



360 



THE LIFE OJT 



whatever was good in them, and seemed to think himself the 
only person in whom there dwelt no excellency worth notice. 
Hence it was, that he often wrote and spoke, as we have seen 
in many parts of these Memoirs, as if he had not received that 
grace, which he undoubtedly had received. Indeed he over- 
looked what he had attained, through the eager desire he had 
of higher and greater things ; and, as many of his letters show, 
thought very meanly of his own attainments, through the con- 
tinually increasing views which he had of the Divine Purity, 
and of the high degree of conformity thereto, which is attain- 
able even in this world. 

1 4. As difficult as it is to think meanly of ourselves, it is 
still more difficult to be willing that others should think meanly 
of us. And how eminent he was in this respect appears from 
hence, that he was constantly upon his guard, lest any expres- 
sion should drop either from his lips or pen, which might tend 
to make any one think well of him ; either on account of his 
family, or learning, or parts, or usefulness. Yea, he took as 
much pains to conceal his excellencies, as others do to show 
theirs ; having the same desire to be little and unknown, which 
many have to be known and esteemed. 

15. Blessed are they that mourn, said the Lord Jesus. And 
this blessedness was as certainly his as that just mentioned*. 
He was a man of a serious spirit, one that stood at the utmost 
distance from levity of every kind. Though he was constantly 
cheerful, as rejoicing in hope of the heavenly inheritance, yet 
had he too deep a sense of his own wants, and the wants of the 
church of God, as also of the sins and miseries of mankind, to 
be at any time light or trifling. I have a letter before me 
(dated Dec. 1771,) which at once gives us a picture of his 
seriousness, watchfulness, and earnestness ; and contains ad- 
vices well deserving the consideration of all that fear God, — ■ 
" There is undoubtedly," said he, " such a thing as the full 
assurance of faith. Be not discouraged on account of thou- 
sands, who stop short of it : it is our own fault if we do not 
attain it. — God would give us ample satisfaction if we did but 
deeply feel our wants. — Both you and I want a deeper awaken- 



THE REV. JORN FLETCHER. 



•361 



ing, which will produce a death to outward things and specu- 
lative knowledge. Let us shut our eyes to the gilded clouds 
without us : let us draw inward, and search after God, if haply 
we may find him. Let us hold fast our confidence, though we 
are often constrained against hope, to believe in hope. But 
let us not rest in our confidence, as thousands do : let it help 
us to struggle and wait till he come. Let us habituate our- 
selves to live inwardly. This will solemnize us, and prevent 
our trifling with the things of God. We may be thankful for 
what we have, without resting in it. We may strive, and yet 
not trust in our striving ; but expect all from divine grace." 

16. In these words, Mr. Fletcher gives us not only an exam- 
pie of holy mourning, but likewise of hungering and thirsting after 
righteousness. In this he was peculiarly worthy of our imitation, 
He never rested in any thing he had either experienced or 
done in spiritual matters, But this one thing he did : forgetting 
those, things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those 
things which were before, he pressed towards the mark for the 
prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ; he was a true 
Christian racer, always on the stretch for higher and better 
things. Though his attainments, both in experience and useful- 
ness, were above the common standard, yet the language of his 
conversation and behaviour always was, Not as though I had 
already attained, either were already perfected / but I follow after, 
if by any means I may apprehend that for which lam apprehended 
of Christ Jesus. He had his eye upon a full conformity to the 
Son of God ; or what the apostle terms, The measure of the sta- 
ture of the fulness of Christ. Nor could he be satisfied with 
any thing less. 

17. And he was meek, like his Master, as well as lowly in 
heart. Not that he was so by nature ; but a man of strong pas- 
sions, and prone to anger in particular : insomuch that he has 
frequently thrown himself on the floor, and lain there most of 
the night, bathed in tears, imploring victory over his own spirit. 
And he did not strive in vain : he did obtain the victory in a 
very eminent degree. Yea, so thoroughly had grace subdued 
nature : so fully was he renewed in the spirit of his mind, that 

'IB 



3.62 



THE LIFE OF 



for many years before his death, I believe, he was never observed 
by any one, friend, or foe, to be out of temper, nor heard to 
utter a rash expression, on any provocation whatever ; and pro- 
vocation he sometimes met with, and that in a high degree 5 
especially from those whose religious sentiments he thought it 
his duty to oppose. I have often thought the testimony that 
Bishop Burnet (in the History of his own Times) bears of Arch- 
bishop Leighton, might be borne of him with equal propriety. 
" After an intimate acquaintance with the Archbishop for many 
years, and after being with him by night and by day, at home 
and abroad, in public and in private, on sundry occasions and in 
various affairs : I must say, I never heard an idle word drop 
from his lips, nor any conversation which was not to the use of 
edifying. I never saw him in any temper in which I myself 
would not have wished to be found at death." Any one that 
has been intimately acquainted with Mr. Fletcher, will say the 
same of him. But they that knew him best, will say it with 
the most assurance. 

18. Hence arose his readiness to bear with the weaknesses^ 
and forgive the faults of others : which was the more remark- 
able, considering his flaming zeal against sin, and deep concern 
for the glory of God. Such hatred to sin, and such love to the 
sinner, I never saw joined together before. This circumstance, 
above others, convinced me of the height of his grace, per- 
ceiving that he bore so much of his Master's image, whose 
hatred to sin, and love to sinners are equally infinite. He took 
all possible pains to detect what was evil, in any of those that 
were under his care ; pursuing it through all its turnings and 
windings, and stripping it of all its disguises. Yet none were 
so ready to excuse it, when it was confessed, and to conceal it 
even from his most intimate friends. 

He never mentioned the faults of an absent person unless 
absolute duty required it. And then he spoke with the utmost 
tenderness, extenuating, rather than aggravating them. None 
could draw his picture more exactly than St. Paul has done, in 
the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. 
Every feature in that masterly piece of apostolic painting was 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 363 



ibund in him. Let all that knew him, especially his intimate 
friends, recollect the spirit and behaviour of this servant of the 
God of love ; and then let them judge whether I exaggerate 
when I say, He suffered long and was kind: he envied not : acted 
not rashly : was not puffed up : did not behave himself unseemly : 
sought not his own : was not provoked. He thought no evil, re- 
joiced not in iniquity, but rejoiced in the truth. He covered all 
things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things. 
It would be easy to enlarge on all these particulars, and show 
how they were exemplified in him. 

19. But waving this, I would only observe, that with regard 
to two of them, kindness to others, and not seeking his own, he 
had few equals. His kindness to others was such, that he 
bestowed his all upon them : his time, his talents, his substance. 
His knowledge, his eloquence, his health, his money, were 
employed day by day for the good of mankind. He prayed, he 
wrote, he preached, he visited the sick and well : he conversed, 
he gave, he laboured, he suffered, winter and summer, night and 
day*, he endangered, nay, destroyed his health, and in the end, 
gave his life also for the profit of his neighbours, that they 
might be saved from everlasting death. He denied himself 
even such food as was necessary for him, that he might have to 
give them that had none. And when he was constrained to 
change his manner of living, still his diet was plain and simple. 
And so were his clothing and furniture, that he might save all 
that was possible for his poor neighbours. 

He sought not his own in any sense : not his own honour, but 
the honour of God, in all he said or did : he sought not his own 
interest, but the interest of his Lord, spreading knowledge, 
holiness, and happiness, as far as he possibly could. He sought 
not his own pleasure, but studied to please all men for their 
good to edification : and to please Him that had called him to 
his kingdom and glory. And yet it is certain, he found the 
greatest pleasure in pleasing God and his neighbour. For 
nothing could give a higher delight than this to his pious and 
benevolent mind. 



3<M 



THE LIFE Of 



20. In the meantime he was a man of peace, and spared m 
pains to restore it where it was broken. He gave numberless 
proofs of this amiable disposition. When we were at Tre-- 
vecka, (to mention but one instance,) two of the students were 
bitterly prejudiced against each other. He took them into a 
room by themselves, reasoned with them, wept over them, and 
at last prevailed. Their hearts were broken : they were melted 
down : they fell upon each others necks and wept aloud. 

The pains which he took to make peace at the Leeds Con- 
ference, in 1784, will not easily be forgotten. And although he 
could not prevail so far as might have been desired, yet his 
labour was not in vain. 

But I do not attempt to draw his full character. I will only 
add, what the apostle recommends to the Philippians, was 
exactly copied by him. He was blameless and harmless, a son 
of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse 
generation ; shining among them as a light in the world. 

21. To the above, Mr. Wesley adds: "I think one talent 
wherewith God had endued Mr. Fletcher, has not been sum- 
ciently noted yet. I mean his courtesy : in which there was 
not the least touch either of art or affectation. It was pure 
and genuine, and sweetly constrained him to behave to every 
one, (although particularly to inferiors,) in a manner not to be 
described : with so inexpressible a mixture of humility, love, 
and respect. This directed his words, the tone of his voice, 
his looks, his whole attitude, his every motion. This seems to 
he intended by St. Paul, in those words, ^t^^ouI. Not 
so well expressed in our translation by behaveth not itself 
unseemly. Do not the words literally mean, Is not ill-bred? 
Behaves on all occasions with decency and good breeding? 
Certainly so did Mr. Fletcher. Never did any man more per- 
fectly suit his whole behaviour to the persons and the occasion. 
So that one might apply to him, with great propriety, the words 

the ancient poet 5 — 

"Ilium, quicquid agh, quoquo vestigia te?idit 
Compoiut fn.riim subscqniturq j Docor." 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



3C5 



I cannot translate this : but I can give the English reader a 
parallel, and more than a parallel. 

" Grace was in all his steps, heaven in his eye ; 
In all his gestures- sanctity and love," 

^ 

CHAPTER Xir 

His Death, 

i. "Some weeks before he was taken ill, (says Mrs. Flet- 
cher,) he mentioned to me a peculiar manifestation of love, 
which he received in his own house, with the application of 
those words. Thou shall walk with me in white He added, It 
is a little thing so to hang upon God by faith, as to feel no 
departure from him, and no rising in the heart against him. 
This does not satisfy me. And I sometimes find such gleams of 
light and love, such wafts, as it were, of the heavenly air, so 
powerful as if they would just then take my soul with them to 
glory ! But lam not filled* I want to be filled with all the fulness 
of God. In conformity to these sentiments, when he was in 
his last illness, he expressed himself thus, 6 1 am filled, most 
sweetly filled.' This conveyed much to my mind, as I under- 
stood by it the accomplishment of his large desires. 

2. " Some time before the beginning of his last sickness, he was 
peculiarly penetrated with a sense of the nearness of eternity. 
There was scarce an hour in which he was not calling upon us 
to drop every thought and every care, that we might attend to 
nothing but the drinking deeper into God. We spent much 
time in wrestling with God, and were led in a peculiar manner 
to abandon our whole selves, our souls and bodies, into the hands 
of God ; ready to do, and willing to suffer whatever was well- 
pleasing to Him. 

" And now the time drew near when his faith was to be 
called to its last grand exercise. A little before this, being on hk 



366 



THE LIFE Qi 5 



knees in prayer for light, whether he should go to London or 
not ? The answer to him seemed to be, 4 Not to London, but to 
thy grave.' When he acquainted me with this, he said, with a 
heavenly smile, i Satan would represent it to me as something 
dreadful, enforcing those words, The cold grave ! the cold grave P 
On the Sunday following, (I think it was the next day,) that 
anthem was sung in church. The Lord is my shepherd, therefore 
can 1 lack nothing. He shall feed me in green pastures, and lead 
me forth beside the waters of comfort. He shall convert my soul, 
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness for his name^s 
sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 
death, I shall fear no evil; for thou art with me ; thy rod and staff 
shall comfort me. Thou shalt prepare a table before me, against 
them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and 
my cup shall be full. 

" In his return home, he observed in how uncommon a de- 
gree these words had been blessed to his soul. And from that 
very time 1 do not remember to have seen in him any, the least 
marks of temptation. He showed an unusual cheerfulness and 
liveliness hi every part of his work, and seemed to increase in 
strength of body, as well as in strength of soul. Truly it was 
to him according to his faith. He feared no evil, and his cup 
was filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy 
Ghost. 

" On Thursday, August 4, he was employed in the work of 
God from three in the afternoon till nine at night. When he 
came home, he said, 4 1 have taken cold but seemed not to re- 
gard it. He was far from well on Friday and Saturday ; but 
was uncommonly drawn out in prayer. On Saturday night he 
was abundantly worse, and his fever appeared very strong. I 
begged that he would by no means think of going to church in 
the morning. But he told me it was the will of the Lord ; in 
which case I never dared to persuade." 

3. The Rev. Mr. Gilpin (as he has informed us) " called 
upon him in the morning, with an earnest request that he would 
permit him, if not to take the whole of his duty on that day, at 
least to share it with him. But this he would by no means be 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



367 



prevailed upon to suffer, assuring him with an air of holy con- 
fidence, that God would sufficiently strengthen him to go through 
the duties of the day. This was his last appearance in public ; 
and several who were present upon this memorable occasion, 
were affected beyond all description, with the melancholy cir- 
cumstances of the day. He opened the reading service with 
apparent strength 5 but before he had proceeded far in it, his 
countenance changed, his speech began to falter, and it was 
with the utmost difficulty that he could keep himself from faint- 
ing. Every eye was riveted upon him, deep solicitude was 
painted on every face, and confused murmurs of distress ran 
through the whole congregation. In the midst of this affecting 
scene, Mrs. Fletcher was seen pressing through the crowd, and 
earnestly entreating her dying husband no longer to attempt what 
appeared to be utterly impracticable. But ha, as though con- 
scious that he was engaged in his last public work, mildly refu- 
sed to be entreated ; and struggling against an almost insupport- 
able languor, constrained himself to continue the service. The 
windows being opened, he appeared to be a little refreshed, and 
begun to preach with a strength and recollection that surprised 
all present. In the course of his sermon, the idea of his weak- 
ness was almost lost in the freedom and energy with which he 
delivered himself. Mercy was the subject of his discourse ; and 
while he expatiated on this glorious attribute of the Deity, its 
unsearchable extent, its eternal duration, and its astonishing 
effects, he appeared to be carried above all the fears and feel- 
ings of mortality. There was something in his appearance and 
manner that gave his word an irresistible influence upon this 
solemn occasion. An awful concern was awakened through the 
whole assembly, and every one's heart was uncommonly moved. 
Upon the hearts of his friends, in particular, a most affecti-ig 
impression was made at this season ; and what deepened that 
impression was the sad presentiment which they read ir each 
other's countenance, of their pastor's approaching dissolution. 

" After sermon he walked up to the communion table, utter- 
ing these words, c I am going to throw myself under the wings 
of the cherubim, before the mercy seat.' Here the same dis- 



368 



THE LIFE OP 



tressing scene was renewed with additional solemnity. The 
people were deeply affected while they beheld him offering up 
the last languid remains of a life that had been lavishly spent 
in their service. Groans and tears were on every side. In 
going through this last part of his duty, he was exhausted again 
and again ; but his spiritual vigour triumphed over his bodily 
weakness. After several times sinking on the sacramental 
table, he still resumed his sacred work, and cheerfully distributed, 
with his dying hand, the love-memorials of his dying Lord. In 
the course of this concluding office, which he performed by 
means of the most astonishing exertions, he gave out several 
verses of hymns, and delivered many affectionate exhortations to 
his people, calling upon them, at intervals, to celebrate the 
mercy of God in short songs of adoration and praise. And 
now, having struggled through a service of near four hours con- 
tinuance, he was supported, with blessings in his mouth, from the 
altar to his chamber, where he lay for some time in a swoon y 
and from whence he never walked into the world again." 

" After this, (proceeds Mrs. Fletcher,) he dropt into a sleep 
for some time, and, on waking, cried out with a pleasant smile, 
fe Now, my dear, thou seest I am no worse for doing the Lord's 
work. He never fails me when I trust in him.' Having eaten 
a little dinner, he dozed most of the evening, now and then 
waking up with the praises of God in his mouth. At night his 
fever returned, but it was not violent ; and yet his strength 
decreased amazingly. On Monday and Tuesday we had a 
little, paradise together. He lay on a couch in the study ; and 
though often changing posture, was sweetly pleasant, and fre- 
quently slept a good while together. When he was awake, he 
delighted in hearing me read hymns, and treatises on faith and 
love. His words were all animating, and his patience beyond 
expression. When he had a very nauseous medicine to take, 
he seemed to enjoy the cross, according to a word which he 
was used often to repeat, 6 We are to seek a perfect conformity 
to the will of God ; and leave him to give us pleasure or pain, 
as it seerrteth him good.' 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



369 



" I asked him, Whether he had any directions to give me, if 
he should be taken from me ? since I desired to form my whole 
life thereby. He replied, 4 No, not by mine : the Holy Ghost 
shall direct thee. I have nothing particular to say.' I said, 
Have you any conviction, that God is about to take you ? He 
said, £ No ; only I always see death so inexpressibly near, that 
we both seem to stand on the verge of eternity.' While he 
slept a little, I besought the Lord, if it were his good pleasure, 
to spare him to me a little longer. But my prayer seemed to 
have no wings : and I could not help mingling continually there- 
with, Lord, give me perfect resignation ! This uncertainty 
made me tremble, lest God was going to put into my hands the 
bitter cup with which he threatened my husband. Some weeks 
before, I myself was ill of a fever, and not without danger. My 
husband then felt the whole parting scene, and struggled for a 
perfect resignation. He said, ' O Polly, shall I ever see the day 
when thou must be carried out to bury ! How will the little 
things which thy tender care has prepared for me, in every part 
of the house, wound and distress me ! How is it ? I think I feel 
jealousy ! I am jealous of the worms ! 1 seem to shrink at the 
thought of giving my dear Polly to the worms.' 

4. " Now all these reflections returned upon my heart with 
the weight of a millstone. I cried to the Lord, and these words 
were deeply impressed on my spirit, Where I am, there shall my 
servants be, that they may behold my glory. This promise was 
full of comfort to my soul. I saw that in Christ's immediate 
presence was our home, and that we should have our re-union 
in being deeply centred in him. I received it as a fresh mar- 
riage for eternity : as such I trust for ever to hold it. All that 
day, whenever I thought of the expression, to behold my glory, 
it seemed to wipe away every tear, and was as the ring whereby 
we were joined anew. 

" Awaking some time after he said, 4 Polly, I have been think- 
ing it was Israel's fault that they asked for signs. We will not 
do so : but abandoning our whole selves to the will of God, 
will lie patiently before him ; assured that he will do all things 
well.' 

47 .• • 



THE LIFE OF 



"My dear love, said I, If I have ever done or said any 
thing to grieve thee, how will the remembrance wound my 
heart, if thou shouldst be taken from me ! He entreated me, 
with inexpressible tenderness, not to allow the thought, declaring 
his thankfulness for our union, in a variety of words written on 
my heart with the adamantine pen of friendship deeply dipt in 
blood. 

" On Wednesday, he told me, he had received such a manifes- 
tation of the full meaning of those words, God is love, as he 
could never be able to express. ' It fills my heart,' said he 
4 every moment : O Polly, my dear Polly, God is love ! Shout ! 
shout aloud ! I want a gust of praise to go to the ends of the 
earth ! But it seems as if I could not speak much longer. Let 
us fix on a sign between ourselves.' 1 Now,' said he, (tapping 
me twice with his finger,) ' I mean, God is love. And we will 
draw each other into God. Observe ! By this we will draw 
each other into God.' 

" Sally coming in, he cried out, 4 O Sally, God is love ! Shout 
both of you ! I want to hear you shout his praise !' All this time 
the medical friend, who attended him diligently, hoped he was in 
no danger : as he had no headach, but much sleep, without the 
least delirium, and an almost regular pulse. So was the disease, 
though commissioned to take his life, restrained by the power 
of God. 

" On Thursday his speech began to fail. While he was able? 
he spoke to all that came in his way. Hearing that a stranger 
was in the house, he ordered her to be called up. But the ut- 
tering only two sentences made him ready to faint away. And 
while he had any power of speech, he would not be silent to his 
friendly Doctor, ' O Sir, said he, you take much thought for my 
body : permit me to take thought for your soul!' — When I could 
scarce understand any thing he said, I spoke these words, God is 
love. Instantly, as if all his powers were awakened, he broke 
out in a rapture, ' God is love ! love ! love ! O for that gust of 
praise ! I want to sound !' — — Here his voice again failed. All 
this time he was much in pain, and suffered many ways : but still 
with such unutterable patience, as none but those that were 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER*. 



371 



present can conceive. If I "did but name his sufferings, he 
would smile and make the sign. 

" On Friday, observing his body covered with spots, I felt a 
sword pierce through my soul. As I was kneeling by his side, 
with my hand in his, entreating the Lord to be with us in this 
tremendous hour, he strove to say many things, but could not 
articulate the words. All he could do was to press my hand, 
and frequently repeat the sign. At last, he breathed out, 
f Head of the Church, be head to my wife !' 

" When I was forced to leave him for a few moments, Sally 
said to him, 4 My dear Master, do you know me V He replied, 
* God will put his right hand under you.' She added, 4 O my 
dear Master, should you be taken away, what a disconsolate 
creature will my poor, dear mistress be !' He replied, ' God will 
be her all in all.' 

" He always took a peculiar pleasure in repeating or hearing 
those words, 

i Jesu's blood through earth and skies, 
Mercy, free, boundless mercy cries.' 

Whenever I repeated them to him, he would answer, 4 Bound 
less ! boundless ! boundless !' He now added, though not with- 
out much difficulty, 

1 Mercy's full power I soon shall prove, 
Lov'd with an everlasting love.' 

" On Saturday in the afternoon, his fever seemed quite off. 
and a few friends standing near his bed, he reached his hand to 
each : and looking on a minister, said, 4 Are you ready to assist 
to-morrow ?' His recollection surprised us, as the day of the 
week had not been named in the room. Many were of opinion 
he would recover : and one of them said to him, 4 Do you think 
the Lord will raise you up V He strove to answer, and could 

just pronounce, 4 Raise me up in the resurr" Meaning in 

the resurrection. To another, who asked the same question, he 
said, 4 1 leave it all to God*' 



372 



THE LIFE OF 



" In the evening the fever came again, and with greater vio- 
lence than ever. The mucus then falling on his throat, almost 
strangled him. It was supposed the same painful symptom 
would grow more and more violent to the last. As I felt this 
exquisitely, I cried to the Lord to remove it. And, glory be 
to his name, he did ! From that time it returned no more. 

" As night drew on, I perceived him dying yery fast. His 
fingers could hardly make the sign, which he scarce ever 
forgot : and his speech seemed quite gone. I said, My dear 
creature, I ask not for myself: I know thy soul : but for the sake 
of others, If Jesus be very present with thee, lift up thy right 
hand. Immediately he did. If the prospect of glory sweetly 
open before thee, repeat the sign. He instantly raised it 
again, and in half a minute, a second time. He then threw it 
up, as if he would reach the top of the bed. After this, his 
hands moved no more. But on my saying, Art thou in pain ? 
He answered, ' No.' From this time he lay in a kind of sleep, 
though with his eyes open and fixt. For the most part he sat 
upright, against pillows, with his head a little inclining to one 
side. And so remarkably composed, yea, triumphant was his 
countenance, that the least trace of death was scarcely discern- 
ible in it. Eighteen hours he was in this situation, breathing 
like a person in common sleep. About thirty-five minutes past 
ten on Sunday night, August 14, his precious soul entered into 
the joy of his Lord, without one struggle or groan, in the fifty- 
sixth year of his age. 

" And here I break off my mournful story : but on my bleed- 
ing heart, the fair picture of his heavenly excellencies will be 
for ever drawn." 

5. The reader will not think me tedious, if I subjoin here the 
account which the Rev. Mr. Gilpin has given of this last scene 
of the life of this incomparable man. " After having mani- 
fested so much resolution and constancy in fighting the good 
fight cf faith, it is no wonder that Mr. Fletcher was permitted 
to finish his course with joy, and that the concluding scenes of his 
warfare were peculiarly triumphant and glorious. Equally 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



373 



prepared for every event, he met his last great trial with all 
that composure and steadiness, which had invariably distin- 
guished him upon every former occasion of suffering. He 
entered the valley of the shadow of death, as one who feared no 
evil. He considered it as the high road to that incorruptible 
inheritance which is reserved for the saints : and, looking for- 
ward with a hope full of immortality, he saw, beyond its limi- 
ted gloom, those everlasting hills of light and glory to which his 
soul aspired. 

" A few days before his dissolution, he appeared to have 
reached that desirable point, where the last rapturous discove- 
ries are made to the souls of dying saints. Roused as it were, 
with the shouts of angels, and kindled into rapture with visions 
of glory, he broke into a song of holy triumph, which began 
and ended with the praises of God's unfathomable love. He 
laboured to declare the secret manifestations he enjoyed ; but his 
sensations were too powerful for utterance, and after looking 
inexpressible things, he contented himself with calling upon 
all around him to celebrate and shout out that adorable love, 
which can never be fully comprehended or adequately ex- 
pressed. This triumphant frame of mind was not a tran- 
sient feeling, but a state that he continued to enjoy, with- little 
or no discernible interruption, to the moment of his death. 
While he possessed the power of speech, he spake as one whose 
lips had been touched with a live coal from the altar} and 
when deprived of that power, his countenance discovered 
that he was sweetly engaged in the contemplation of eternal 
things. 

" On the day of his departure, as I was preparing to attend 
my own church, which was at the distance of nine miles from 
Madeley, I received a hasty message from Mrs. Fletcher, re- 
questing my immediate attendance at the vicarage. I instantly 
followed the messenger, and found Mr. Fletcher with every 
symptom of approaching dissolution upon him. I had ever^ 
looked upon this man of God with an extraordinary degree of 
affection and reverence ; and on this afflicting occasion my 
heart was uncommonly affected and depressed. It was now 



374 



THE LIFE OF 



in vain to recollect that public duty required my presence in 
another place : unfitted for every duty except that of silently 
watching the bed of death, I found it impossible to withdraw 
from the solemn scene to which I had been summoned. I had 
received from this evangelical teacher, in days that were past, 
many excellent precepts with respect to holy living ; and now I 
desired to receive from him the important lesson with respect 
to holy dying. And truly this concluding lesson was of inesti- 
mable worth, since so much patience and resignation, so much 
peace and composure, were scarcely ever discovered in the 
same circumstances before. — Let me die the death of the righ- 
teous, and let my last end be like his! 

" While their pastor was breathing out his soul into the hands 
of a faithful Creator ; his people were offering up their joint 
supplications on his behalf in the house of God. Little, how- 
ever, was seen among them on that trying occasion, but affliction 
and tears. Indeed it was a day much to be remembered, for the 
many affecting testimonies of distress, which appeared on every 
side. The whole village wore an air of consternation and sad- 
ness, and not one joyful song was heard among all its inhabi- 
tants : — Hasty messengers were passing to and fro with anxious 
inquiries and confused reports : — And the members of every 
family sat together in silence that day, awaiting, with trembling 
expectation, the issue of every hour. After the conclusion of 
evening service, several of the poor, who came from distant 
parts, and who were usually entertained under Mr. Fletcher's 
roof, still lingered about the house, and seemed unable to tear 
themselves away from the place, without a sight of their expi- 
ring pastor. Secretly informed of their desire, I obtained them 
the permission they wished. And the door of the chamber 
being set open, immediately before which Mr. Fletcher was 
sitting upright in his bed, with the curtains undrawn, unaltered 
in his usual venerable appearance, they slowly moved one by 
one along the gallery, severally pausing as they passed by the 
door, and casting in a look of mingled supplication and anguish. It 
was 3 indeed, an affecting sight, to behold these unfeigned mourn- 
ers successively presenting themselves before the bed of their 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



375 



dying benefactor, with an inexpressible eagerness in their looks, 
and then dragging themselves away from his presence with a 
distressing consciousness that they should see his face no more. 

" And now the hour speedily approached that was to put a 
solemn termination to our hopes and fears. His weakness very 
perceptibly increased, but his countenance continued unaltered 
to the last. If there was any visible change in his feelings, he 
appeared more at ease and more sweetly composed, as the 
moment of his dismission drew near. Our eyes were riveted 
upon him in awful expectation. But whatever we had felt be- 
fore, no murmuring thought was suffered, at this interesting 
period, to darken the glories of so illustrious a scene. — All was 
silence, — when the last angelic minister suddenly arrived, and 
performed his important commission with so much stillness and 
secrecy that it was impossible to determine the exact moment 
of its completion. Mrs. Fletcher was kneeling by the side of 
her departing husband ; one who had attended him with uncom- 
mon assiduity during the last stages of his distemper, sat at his 
head ; while I sorrowfully waited near his feet. Uncertain whe- 
ther or not he was totally separated from us, we pressed nearer, 
and hung over his bed in the attitude of listening attention, — 
his lips had ceased to move, and his head was gently sinking 
upon his bosom, — we stretched out our hands ; but his warfare 
was accomplished, and the happy spirit had taken its everlasting 
flight. 

" Such was the undisturbed and triumphant death of this emi- 
nently holy and laborious pastor, who entered into rest on the 
evening of Sunday, August 14, 1785. Blessed are the dead 
who die in the Lord ! They rest from their painful labours, and 
are followed by those exemplary works which they considered 
as unworthy a place in their remembrance : they escape from 
the windy storm and tempest, and are brought to their desired ha- 
ven : they have a right to the tree of life, they enter in through the 
gates into the city, and stand with everlasting acceptance in the 
presence of God. 

u This afflicting providence is severely felt by the survivor, 
who has lost, at this separating stroke, whatever she had 



376 



THE LIFE 0? 



eounted most valuable on this side eternity. But, while she 
feels all the anguish of an immediate separation from her dear= 
est friend, she looks forward with a joyful hope of being one 
day united to his happy spirit, where the pangs of parting can 
be known no more. Mrs. Fletcher was surrounded, upon this 
sad occasion, by a multitude of sincere mourners, who, while 
they deplored the loss of their inestimable pastor, recollected, 
with peculiar satisfaction, that the last years of his life had 
been years of abundant consolation and peace : — and who now 
rejoice that, in his removal from among them, he left behind 
him a lively representative of himself, one who enters into his 
labours and watches over his flock, a support to the needy, a 
guide to the ignorant, and a mother in IsraeL" 

6. So far Mr. Gilpin. Mrs. Fletcher adds, " When I call to 
mind his ardent zeal, his laborious endeavours to seek and save 
the lost, his diligence in the employment of his time, his Christ- 
like condescension towards me, and his uninterrupted converse 
with heaven : I may well be allowed to add, My loss is beyond 
the power of words to paint. I have often gone through deep 
waters ; but all my afflictions were nothing to this. Well : I 
want no pleasant prospect but upwards ; nor any thing whereon 
to fix my hope, but immortality. 

" From the time I have had the happiness and honour of 
being with him, every day more and more convinced me he 
was the Christian. I saw, I loved, in him, the image of my 
Saviour, and thought myself the happiest of women in the 
possession of the most sympathizing and heavenly friend. My 
sprrow bears a due proportion. But it is alleviated by that 
thought, United in God we cannot be divided. No : we are of 
one household still : we are joined in Him, as our centre, of 
whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. It is 
said of New Testament believers, they are come to the spirits of 
just men made perfect : to the glorious privilege of communion 
with the Church triumphant. But this is far more apparent to 
the eyes of celestial spirits, than to ours, which are yet veiled 
with flesh and blood. Yet as there is joy in heaven over one 
sinner, that repenteth, and as the prayers of saints still on earth 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



377 



are represented by incense in the hands of the elders, I can 
only consider departed spirits, and ministering angels, as one 
innumerable company, continually surrounding us. And are 
they not as nearly united to their fellow-soldiers now, as when 
they were in the body ? What should hinder ? Gratitude and 
affection are natives of heaven, and live for ever there. For- 
getfulness is a property of mortality, and drops off with the 
body. Therefore they that loved us in the Lord, will surely 
love us for ever : can any thing material interrupt the sight or 
presence of a spirit ? Nay, 

1 Walls within walls no more the passage bar, 
Than unopposing space of liquid air.' 

7. " On the 17th his remains were deposited in Madeley 
churchyard, amidst the tears and lamentations of thousands. 
The service was performed by the Rev. Mr, Hatton, rector of 
Waters- Upton, whom God enabled to pay a public tribute of 
respect to the memory of this great man, in a funeral sermon 
from Hebrews xiii. 7, and to speak in a pathetic manner to the 
weeping flock. In the conclusion, at my request, he read the 
following paper. 

" As it was the desire of my beloved husband to be buried 
in this plain manner, so, out of tenderness, he begged that 
I might not be present. And in every thing I would obey 
him. 

" Permit me then, by the mouth of a friend, to bear an open 
testimony to the glory of God, that I who have known him in 
the most perfect manner, am constrained to declare, that I never 
knew any one walk so closely in the ways of God as he did. The 
Lord gave him a conscience tender as the apple of an eye. And 
he literally preferred the interest of every one to his own. 

" He was rigidly just, and perfectly loose from attachment to 
the world. He shared his all with the poor, who lay so close 
to his heart, that, at the approach of death, when he could not 
speak without difficulty, he cried out, ' my poor! What shall 
become of my poor P He was blessed with so great a degree of 
humility, as is scarce to be found. I am witness how often he 

4& 



378 



THE LIFE OF 



has rejoiced in being treated with contempt. Indeed, it seemed 
the very food of his soul, to be little and unknown. 

" His zeal for souls I need not tell you. Let the labours of 
twenty-five years, and a martyr's death in the conclusion, imprint 
it on your hearts. His diligent visiting of the sick, occasioned 
the fever, which, by God's commission, tore him from you and 
me. And his vehement desire to take his last leave of you with 
dying lips and hands, gave (it is supposed) the finishing stroke, 
by preparing his blood for putrefaction. Thus has he lived and 
died your servant. And will any of you refuse to meet him at 
God's right-hand in that day 1 

"He walked with death always in his sight. About two 
months ago, he came to me and said, 6 My dear love, I know not 
how it is, but I have a strange impression, death is near us, as if 
it were to be some sudden stroke upon one of us. And it draws 
out all my soul in prayer, that we may be ready." He then 
broke out, 1 Lord, prepare the soul thou wilt call ! And O ! stand 
by the poor disconsolate one that shall be left behind !' 

" A few days before his departure, he was filled with love in 
an uncommon manner. The same he testified as long as he had 
a voice, and continued to the end, by a most lamb-like patience, 
in which he smiled over death, and set his last seal to the glorious 
truths he had so long preached among you. 

" Three years, nine months, and two days, I have possessed 
my heavenly-minded husband. But now the sun of my earthly 
joys is set for ever, and my soul filled with an anguish, which 
only finds its consolation in a total resignation to the will of 
God. When I was asking the Lord, if he pleased to spare him 
to me a little longer, the following promise was impressed on 
my mind, Where I am, there shall my servants be, that they may 
behold my glory. Lord, hasten the time." 

8. " There is little need," says Mr. Wesley, " of adding any 
farther character of this man of God to the foregoing account, 
given by one who wrote out of the fulness of her heart. 1 
would only observe, that for many years I despaired of finding 
an inhabitant of Great Britain that could stand in any degree 
of comparison with Gregory Lopez, or Mon. de Renty. But 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER, 



37& 



let any impartial person judge, if Mr. Fletcher were at all infe- 
rior to them ? Did he not experience as deep communion with 
God, and as high a measure of inward holiness, as was expe- 
rienced by either one or the other of those burning and shining 
lights ! And it is certain his outward light shone before men, 
with full as bright a lustre as theirs. I was intimately acquainted 
with him for thirty years. I conversed with him morning, noon, 
and night, without the least reserve, during a journey of many 
hundred miles. And in all that time, I never heard him speak 
an improper word, or saw him do an improper action. To con- 
clude. Within fourscore years, I have known many excellent 
men, holy in heart and life. But one equal to him I have not 
known ; one so uniformly and deeply devoted to God. So un- 
blameable a man in every respect, I have not found either in 
Europe or America. Nor do I expect to find another such on 
this side eternity. 

" Yet it is possible we may be such as he was. Let us then 
endeavour to follow him, as he followed Christ." 

But some may inquire, Has not Mr. Wesley exceeded the 
truth in this testimony ? Has he not given a too favourable 
representation of the character of his friend, influenced, per- 
haps, by the similarity of their views respecting the great sub- 
ject of general redemption, and other subjects connected there- 
with, and by the very prompt and able manner in which Mr. 
Fletcher stood forth in defence of these views, when attacked 
by Mr. Wesley's opponents ? I shall answer these inquiries by- 
presenting the reader with an exactly similar testimony, borne 
by an eminent minister of Christ, whose sentiments, on these 
points of doctrine, were the reverse of those of Messrs. Wesley 
and Fletcher. This I shall do by inserting the following 
letter, which I received from a very pious and intelligent cler- 
gyman in May last, in consequence of his having lately read 
the first edition of this work. 
" My dear Sir, 

" Had not my time been very fully employed since I had the 
pleasure of seeing you in London, I should before now. have 
fulfilled my promise in sending you the character which the 



380 



THE LIFE OV 



late Rev. Mr. Venn, Vicar of Yelling, gave me of the truly- 
apostolic Mr. Fletcher. The testimony of Mr. Venn is the 
more valuable, as there were several points of doctrine in 
which he differed from Mr. Fletcher : and I believe he felt him- 
self a good deal interested in the support of several of those 
tenets which Mr. Fletcher publicly opposed. But difference of 
opinion on points respecting which good men probably never 
will be all agreed on earth, could not close the eyes of the great 
and good Mr. Venn against the extraordinary excellencies of Mr, 
FJetcher, and therefore he spake of him with all the rapture 
and affection which pre-eminent graces will always excite in the 
breast of a true Christian. In the following narration, I believe 
you will have nearly the words of Mr. Venn, as I was much im- 
pressed with his account of Mr. Fletcher, and wrote down what 
I remembered of it at the close of the day on which I heard it. 
With an expression in his countenance I shall not soon forget, 
making mention of Mr. Fletcher, he exclaimed, ' Sir, he was a 
luminary ; a luminary did I say ? — He was a sun, I have known 
all the great men for these fifty years ; but I have known none 
like him. I was intimately acquainted with him, and was under 
the same roof with him once for six weeks ; during which time 
I never heard him say a single word which was not proper to be 
spoken, and which had not a tendency to ' minister grace to 
the hearers. One time, meeting him when he was very ill of 
a hectic fever, which he had brought upon himself by his in- 
tense labour in the ministry, I said, ' I am sorry to find you so 
ill.' Mr. Fletcher answered with the greatest sweetness, 1 Sorry, 
Sir ! Why are you sorry ? It is the chastisement of my heavenly 
Father, and I rejoice in it. I love the rod of my God, and re- 
joice therein, as an expression of his love and affection towards 
me.' 

" Mr. Venn being here asked whether Mr. Fletcher might not 
have been imprudent in carrying his labours to such an excess, 
answered, e His heart was in them, and he was carried on with 
an impetus which could not be resisted. He did not look on 
the work of the ministry as a mere duty, but it was his pleasure 
and delight. Tell a votary of pleasure that his course of life 



THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



will impair his property and health, and finally ruin him : he 
will reply that he knows all this ; but he must go on ; for life 
would not be tolerable without his pleasures. — Such was the 
ardour of Mr. Fletcher in the ministry of the Gospel. He 
could not be happy but when employed in his great work.' 
Something having escaped one in the company which seemed 
to bear hard upon a particular body of Christians, Mr. Venn 
gave a solemn caution against evil speaking in these words, 
4 Never did I hear Mr. Fletcher speak ill of any man. He 
would pray for those that walked disorderly, but he would not 
publish their faults.' 

" This, I believe, is the substance of what fell from Mr. Venn 
respecting the Rev. Mr. Fletcher, and the manner in which he 
spake, showed that his admiration of that great and good man 
was raised to the highest pitch. Indeed Mr. Venn was a per- 
son peculiarly qualified to appreciate the value of Mr. Fletcher,, 
as the ardour of his own zeal and devotion most nearly resem- 
bled that of Mr. Fletcher. He lived in very uncommon near- 
ness to God, and, as I have been informed, made a most trium- 
phant entrance into the kingdom of glory. I am, my dear Sir, 
yours affectionately, ■= — 

The following character of Mr. Fletcher appeared in the 
Shrewsbury Chronicle of August, 1785. 

" On the 14th instant departed this life, the Rev. John 
Fletcher, Vicar of Madeley, in this county, to the inexpressi- 
ble grief and concern of his parishioners, and of all who had 
the happiness of knowing him. If we speak of him as a man, 
and a gentleman, he was possessed of every virtue and every 
accomplishment which adorns and dignifies human nature. 
If we attempt to speak of him as a minister of the Gospel, it 
will be extremely difficult to give the world a just idea of this 
great character. His deep learning, his exalted piety, his 
never-ceasing labours to discharge the important duty of his 
function, together with the abilities and good effect with which 
he discharged those duties, are best known, and will never be 
forgotten in that vineyard in which he laboured. His charity, 



382 



THE LIFE OP THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER. 



his universal benevolence, his meekness, and exemplary good- 
ness, are scarcely equalled among the sons of men. Anxious 
to the last moment of his life to discharge the sacred duties of 
his office, he performed the service of the church, and admi- 
nistered the holy sacrament to upwards of two hundred commu- 
nicants, the Sunday preceding his death, confiding in that 
Almighty power which had given him life, and resigning that 
life into the hands of Him who gave it, with that composure of 
mind, and those joyful hopes of a happy resurrection, which 
ever accompany the last moments of the just." 




HIS EPITAPH 



Here lies the Body of 
The Rev. JOHN WILLIAM de la FLECHERE, 
Vicar of Madeley, 
Who was born at Nyon, in Switzerland, 
September the 12th, 1729, 
And finished his course, August the 14th, 1785, 
In this Village ; 
Where his unexampled Labours 
Will long be remembered. 
He exercised his Ministry for the space of 
Twenty-five Years 
In this Parish, 
With uncommon zeal and Ability. 
Many believed his Report, and became 
His Joy and Crown of Rejoicing ; 
While others constrained him to take up 
The Lamentation of the Prophet, 
i; All the Day long have I stretched out my Hands 
Unto a disobedient and gainsaying People : 
Yet surely my Judgment is with the Lord, 
And my Work with my God." 
u He being dead yet speaketh." 



APPENDIX 



CONTAINING 

ON A REVIEW OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS WORK, IN THE 
CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, FOR JUNE, 1805. 



J.N the preface to this second edition of the Life of Mr. Fletcher, I have given the 
reader to expect some remarks on this Review of it, to be added, by way of Appendix, 
to the volume. These remarks shall be as few, and as short, as the nature of the 
subjects under consideration will permit, especially as the book, in consequence of 
the additional matter inserted therein, already contains many more pages than was at 
first intended. 

1. "We are sorry," say these Reviewers, p. 350, "to observe several pages taken 
up with a relation of incidents which happened during the youth of Mr. F. and which, 
though sufficiently remarkable, are exhibited to view in a way which appears to us pe- 
culiarly objectionable." These incidents are exhibited simply and only as instances of 
the kind and superintending providence of God, watching over a future heir of salva- 
tion, and preserving his life in extreme dangers, in which, if not thus preserved, it must 
have perished. But " one of these deliverances appeared to Mr. Wesley to be so ex- 
traordinary, that he did not hesitate to affirm that it was a miracle, wrought, probably, 
by the ministry of angels." And will these gentlemen say that it was not a miracle, 
that is, as Mr. Wesley meant, " an effect produced by the divine interposition and 
agency, above the influence of merely natural causes ?" Will they say that a person, 
could be immerged in water, among piles, under a mill, for the space of twenty minutes, 
and be all that time deprived of all sense and feeling, and yet preserved alive without the 
exertion of any supernatural power ? Now if . they will not say this ; if they must allow 
God did interfere, why not by the ministry of angels ? At least what harm can there 
be in supposing this ? Are not the angels " ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to 
the heirs of salvation !" And is it not probable, that we owe more to these heavenly and 
benevolent beings than men in general are aware ? 

But, say they, " Nothing can be more injudicious, and we will add, unscriptural, than 
declarations of this kind !" This is very extraordinary indeed ! This is a sentence one 
would hardly have expected to drop from the pen of a Christian Observer. What ! 
Nothing more unscriptural than to assert that God often interferes in a singular way, 
and sometimes, probably, by the ministrj- of angels, to preserve the lives of those who 
are, or who, he foreknows, will be, not only his children and his heirs, but eminently 
holy and useful in their day and generation ? Methinks I could mention to these gentle- 
men declarations yet more unscriptural than this, and also more injudicious. Surely 
such declarations as they have now uttered are of that nature : declarations which go 
to exclude God from those remarkable deliverances and preservations which, in all 
ages, some of his eminent servants have experienced, and to lead mankind to ascribe 
them to chance or nature, or I know not what. 

49 



386 



APPENDIX* 



It appears to me one might easily prove the reverse of their assertion, and show that 
nothing can be more scriptural than to ascribe the events in question to the divine 
agency, and that probably by the ministry of angels. Do not passages innumerable, 
scattered throughout the Old and New Testament, show how God has interposed by 
their ministry to deliver his servants that trusted in him ? And is he not the same yes- 
terday, to-day, and for ever ? And I think too, that it might easily be shown to be per- 
fectly judicious ; whether by that phrase they mean reasonable and philosophical, or 
wise and prudent. Is it not according to the highest reason and truest philosophy to ac- 
knowledge a particular Providence watching over even every individual of the human 
race, and especially over such as are peculiarly dear to God ? And what is there un- 
reasonable in believing that he occasionally, at least, exerts his power for the deliver- 
ance and preservation of such ? Indeed, if he did not exert his power for these pur- 
poses, what would his watching over them avail ? What advantage would they derive 
from it, if still all events, how interesting soever, were left to chance and nature ? And 
is it not wise and prudent to bear testimony to such interpositions of Providence at a 
time when Atheism and Infidelity go about, in various ways, to deny the providence of 
God, and to deprive his people of the comfort of believing that " the hairs of their head 
are all numbered," that 44 a sparrow falleth not to the ground without their heavenly 
Father and that they " are of more value than many sparrows ?" 

But with regard to this point, the observation of a friend, now before me, is but too 
well founded : " Do you dare to ascribe any success in public measures, or in private 
life, or even any extraordinary deliverance, to the merciful interposition of God, or any 
public or private disaster or calamity, to the avenging arm of an offended Deity ? Ex- 
pect a sneer of contempt, or a smile of pity for your pains. The men of the world can 
account for these things," (and cannot many professing Christians ?) " on other princi» 
pies. A simple plan is theirs ; a plan that renders divine interposition unnecessary.— 
Chance, luck, accident, good or bad conduct ; the wisdom, folly, courage, cowardice, 
industry or idleness of the party, these solve every difficulty ; these are supposed com- 
petent to the production of every event. God's interference, therefore, is peremptorily 
denied ; according to that well known maxim of the Latin poet : 

« Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Incident.' 
His providential government is disowned ; his throne is overturned : his sceptre wrest- 
ed out of his hands, and his crown plucked from his head." 

But say these gentlemen, " without recurring to the daily hair-breadth escapes which 
those experience who are engaged in a seafaring life, in the business of mining, and in 
other perilous occupations, or who are obliged to meet an enemy in the field ; we will 
venture to say, there are few individuals who cannot recollect many singular deliver- 
ances from danger in the course of their lives." True : but what was said of the lepers 
that were cleansed is but too applicable here. " Were there not ten cleansed, but 
where are the nine?" Alas ! few of these return to ascribe their deliverances to God,, 
or give him the glory of them. And, I fear they are directly or indirectly taught, even 
by these Christian Observers, to doubt whether God is the author of such deliverances, 
and whether they ought not to be ascribed to other causes. Nay, say they, " The good 
Christian will humbly and thankfully ascribe them to the providence of God." What ! 
although he believes God did not effect them, but that they took place in the ordinary 
course of things ? Here lies a fallacy too common in the language of professing Chris- 
tians : they speak of ascribing things to the providence of God, and yet all the while 
secretly believe he did not interfere at all, but that they happened through the influence 
of causes purely natural. 



APPENDIX. 



387 



2. The next particular which calls for animadversion in this Review, respects! " what 
js termed" (I use their language) " Mr. F.'s conversion," related in the second chap- 
ter of his Life. The account given of this in Mr. Gilpin's words, is considered by these 
Reviewers, as contradicting what the same Rev. gentleman had before advanced con- 
cerning his early piety. With regard to this it is proper to observe, that Mr. Gilpin has 
sufficiently explained himself on the subject. He begins the narrative of his conversion 
in the following words, " Notwithstanding the early appearance of piety in Mr. F. it is 
evident that he continued for a long course of time a perfect stranger to the true nature 
of Christianity." After describing his moral righteousness, and the complacency which, 
like Saul of Tarsus, he took therein, Mr. G. proceeds, " While he was taken up in 
congratulating himself upon his own fancied eminence in piety, he was an absolute 
stranger to that unfeigned sorrow for sin, which is the first step towards the kingdom oi 
God. It was not till after he had resided some time in England, that he became ex- 
perimentally acquainted with the nature of true repentance." 

Now the authors of the Christian Observer cannot conceive how this should be ; how 
a person should have the attainments Mr. Fletcher had in his childhood and youth, and 
have profited so much, even in religion, above many of his equals, and yet should need 
conversion when he was at the age of twenty -five. They seem half disposed to inquire, 
with an ancient master in Israel, " How can these things be ?" How could so virtuous a 
man have need to be born when he was old ? They instance, in several particulars 
affirmed of him, as that '* from his childhood he was impressed with a deep sense of the 
majesty of God, and a constant fear of offending him, and manifested great tenderness of 
conscience^" — "an extraordinary turn for religious meditation," — that "his filial obe- 
dience and brotherly affection were exemplary," — so that it was " not remembered he 
ever uttered one unbecoming expression in either of those characters :" — that he was "a 
constant reprover of sin, was distinguished at an early age by his reverential awe of God, 
his insatiable thirst after truth, and his uncommon abhorrence of vice." They then add, 
" Surely all this implies more than the appearance of piety : surely of such an one it 
cannot be said with truth that he was a perfect stranger to the true nature of Christia- 
nity, — to the first step towards the kingdom of God." " We are far from meaning to 
affirm," they add, " that Mr. F. possessed, at this time, that maturity, either of Chris- 
tian knowledge, or of Christian grace, which he afterward attained, but still to repre- 
sent him as entirely destitute of both while he exhibited so many of the characteristic 
lineaments of a new creature in Christ Jesus, appears to us not only erroneous in its 
principle, but iniquitous in its effects." 

In answer to this I must observe, they mistake in supposing that Mr. G. represents 
Mr. F. as " entirely destitute of Christian knowledge and Christian grace." He 
might be " a perfect stranger to the true nature of Christianity," not knowing that it is 
grounded on the universal sinfulness and guilt, the depravity and weakness of mankind ; 
that it implies, in consequence of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, the justification 
of men's persons, through faith alone in Christ, and the renovation of their nature by 
the influence of the Holy Ghost, with the love of God shed abroad in their heart by that 
blessed Spirit given to them, and a lively, joyful hope of immortality, raising such as 
possess it above the fear of death ; he might be a stranger, I say, yea a perfect stranger 
to these things, and yet might have what may properly enough be termed " Christian 
knowledge," viz. the knowledge of the being and attributes of God, of his overruling 
Providence, of the incarnation, life and death, the resurrection and ascension of the Son, 
of God, of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future an<J 
eternal state of rewards and punishments- A man that knows such things ae these has 



38S 



APPENDIX. 



certainly some Christian knowledge, and jet if he be unacquainted with the nature and 
necessity of both justification and sanctif cation, or of " faith working by love," he is 
in fact a stranger to the true nature of Christianity. Just so, a man may have some 
grace : viz. preventing grace, restraining him from many, yea, all outward sins ; nay, 
he may be in a measure enlightened, awakened to a sense of the importance of things' 
eternal, and even convinced that he is a guilty sinner, and yet, all this while, may not 
have taken the first step towards the kingdom of God, which, as Mr. Gilpin has stated, is 
certainly unfeigned sorrow for sin, attended with that humiliation and self-abasement 
of soul before God, which is followed with an entire renunciation of our own righteous- 
ness, and of all confidence in the flesh. Now that Mr. F. with all his attainments was 
destitute of this, till the period spoken of by Mr. G. is perfectly evident from the whole 
account. 

And certainly, as to Christian experience, he was destitute, not only of " maturity cf 
grace," which these gentlemen allow, but of that " right and true Christian faith," to 
use the language of the Church of England, "which is not only to believe that the 
Holy Scriptures, and the Articles of our faith are true ; but also to have a sure trust and 
confidence, to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ ; whereof doth follow a 
loving heart to obey his commandments ;*' or as the Homilies express it immediately 
afterward, " a sure trust and confidence that a man hath in God, that by the merits of 
Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God." This justifying 
faith, the Article on justification, represents as being so necessary, so essential to Chris- 
tianity, that " works done before it are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring 
not from faith in Jesus Christ ;" " yea rather for that they are not done as God hath 
willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not," say the compilers of those 
Articles, " but they have the nature of sin." Now to this language of their own Church, 
these Christian Observers, who profess to he firm friends to the Church, I presume, will 
not object. Of course they must allow that Mr. Fletcher, who at the age referred to, 
neither had nor prof 'essed to have this faith, nor even any just notions of it, was not in 
Christ, and of consequence, notwithstanding his morality, fear of God, good desires, 
and external good works, was not a new creature. 

Exactly similar was the case of St. Paul. Although he had " lived in all good con- 
science before God," from a child, as he testified before the high priest Ananias, and 
all his council, Acts xxiii. 1 : although " touching the righteousness of the law" he had 
been all along " blameless ;" nevertheless, when the eyes of his understanding were 
opened to see his sinfulness and guilt, and he began to take what Mr. Gilpin, in this 
memoir of Mr. F. has termed the first step towards the kingdom pf God,. " what things 
were gain to him, those he counted loss," deserving to be made loss of and thrown away, 
" that he might win Christ and be found in him, not having his own righteousness, 
which was of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness 
which is of God by faith." He therefore, moral, and apparently pious, nay, and zealous 
as he had been, *' believed in Christ, that he might be justified by the faith of Christ, 
and not by the deeds of the law," knowing that by them, " no flesh could be justified." 
At the age of about twenty-five, Mr. F. did the same, and then, and not before^ became 
acquainted with, and experienced in true and genuine Christianity. 

One thing more on this point. If Mr. F. had been really regenerated, and truly pious 
in his childhood, which it is evident he was not, still 'he might have needed to be convert- 
ed at the time referred to; because he might have declined, and I think it is manifest he 
had declined, from the beginnings of good which were in him when a child. The plain 
fa^ts here are, 1st. Mr. Gilpin, who certainly understood the nature of true Christianity, 



APPENDIX. 



389 



and what is meant by conversion, and who was much better acquainted with Mr. F. 
than any of these Reviewers, affirms, that he was a stranger to genuine Christianity, and 
of course that he needed conversion, and actually was converted at the period specified: 
and 2ndly, Mr. Fletcher himself declares the same, and that repeatedly. Besides the 
circumstantial account given of his conversion to his brother, p. 35. he declares also, in 
a letter from Switzerland, to a friend in his parish, dated July 18, 1779, " They (the 
children whom he met daily, and who wished him to remain with them,) urge much my 
be ; ng born here. I reply, that as I was born again in England, that is of course the coun- 
try which to me is the dearer of the two." Now did not Mr. F. know what he said? 
Was he either ignorant of the nature of ihe-new birth, or unacquainted with his own state 
of mind, whether he experienced it? 

But, say they, "Mr. F. describes himself as suddenly obtaining relief in prayer; so 
that, instead of his former doubts, as to his acceptance with God, and his former subjec- 
tion to sin, he found himself brought into a state of peace with God, and habitual victory 
over sin." Most certainly he does; and why should he not? Is there any thing 
unreasonable or unscriptural in this way of speaking ? Do not the divine oracles speak 
in this manner continually ? Was not Mr. F. a competent judge in this matter? and 
was not his whole life afterward in consistency with this profession, and a demonstration 
of the truth of it ? They proceed, " The manner of Mr. F.'3 conve rsion, as here related, 
is similar to that which the followers of Mr. Wesley almost universally profess to expe- 
rience." I hope it is, for if it were not, I certainly should have a poor opinion of it, 
having demonstrated in my " Christian Observer observed," (a book which these 
gentlemen have not answered, but which it appears they have not forgot,) that the con- 
version professed to be experienced by the Methodists in connexion with us, is the very 
same with tha f , the absolute necessity of which is held forth in the Holy Scriptures. 

These gentlemen admit, however, that it may sometimes happen, " that a state of 
doubt and distress may be suddenly terminated by a lively participation of illumination 
and grace ; yet in general (they affirm) the attainment of Christian knowledge, and the 
conversion of the heart to God, is a gradual work, carried on in the ordinary use of the 
means of grace." Here they seem to confound illumination, and the attainment of 
Christian knowledge, with the conversion of the heart to God, as though these different 
endowments were one and the same ; and they forget that there must be a measure, at 
least, of illumination, and even of grace too, yea, saving grace, to awaken the soul out of 
the sleep and death of sin, in order to produce a state of doubt and distress, as prepara- 
tory to confidence, peace, and victory ; which confidence, &c. in opposition to the decla- 
ration of these gentlemen, we affirm to take place, in the minds of truly penitent sinners, 
not sometimes, but frequently, not to say generally, in a very sudden manner; and in 
proof of this, T refer them to the above-mentioned pamphlet. Nevertheless, let me 
observe further, we never represent, as they seem to insinuate, (p. 352.) the suddenness 
of conversion as a necessary property of it : nor do we deny, but strongly inculcate, the 
necessity of a gradual advancement in Christian knowledge and holiness; which holi- 
ness, however, we do not believe to be conversion or regeneration, but rather the fruit 
or effect thereof. 

These gentlemen, however, are still of opinion, that, as a description of the change 
which, at that particular period, took place in Mr. F.'s mind, Mr. Gilpin's account is con- 
siderably exaggerated. " His fears, for example, (say they) are said to have been 
totally changed; yet, when we look back, we find, that the only fears which are attributed 
to him are, a fear of God deeply rooted in his heart, and also a constant fear of offending 
God. These fears, we trust, remained with him." Certainly they did remain with 



390 



APPENDIX. 



him; but how ? in fhe same sense? By no means, but greatly changed. Even the 
fears that have God for their object are of a very different kind, after justification and 
peace with God, from what they were before. Before we are made partakers of these 
blessings, we fear him with a slavish, and perhaps also, tormenting fear, dreading his 
wrath, which we see to be due to us on account of our sins; but after our conversion, a 
change in this respect takes place. Instead of " the spirit of bondage to fear," we have 
received " the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ;" and the only fear of 
God which remains, is a reverential and filial fear, which is perfectly consistent with con- 
fidence and love, hope and joy, and the most perfect liberty. Hence his people are 
said, in one seuse to serve him without fear, (Luke i. 71, 72.) and yet in another, with 
reverence and godly fear, (Heb. xii. 28.) which declarations no way contradict each 
other. Add to this, that although no other fears are attributed to him, while in his 
unconverted stale, but such as had God for their object, we are not to suppose that no 
other had place in his mind. Certainly, while he was under the guilt of sin, nay,, while 
he was not assured of his justification, he must at leas£ have feared death and future 
misery, and have been in bondage through that fear ; and probably too " the fear of 
man 1 ' might have no little influence over him. But as soon as he was in Christ, and 
thereby delivered from condemnation, he was raised, in a great measure, above those 
fears, could rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and cast his care on him who cared for 
him ; and then the only fears that remained in him, added to the fear of God, just 
spoken of, were a watchful fear of his spiritual enemies, and a jealous fear of himself, 
44 lest a promise being left him of entering into God's rest, he should seem to come short 
of it." So that Mr. G. did not assert at all too much, when he observed, that his fears? 
among other affections, were at that time totally changed. 

3. But it is not my intention to attend these gentleman through the whole of their 
critique, in which there are many equally gross mistakes with those already mentioned. 
It is necessary, however, that I should notice a few more particulars. It having been 
intimated in this life of Mr. F. that, notwithstanding all the pains he took, he saw, for 
some time, but little fruit of his labours; these gentlemen tell us, that this may, " doubt- 
less be, in a great part, ascribed to the irregular and injudicious, though (they admit) 
well meaning methods, by which Mr. F. from his first residence at Madeley, endeavoured 
to do good to his parishioners and others." And they inform us in a note, that they 
" allude to such circumstances as that of placing a Methodist preacher, (which was 
either captain Scott, an able preacher, or the Rev. George Whitefield) on his horseblock, 
on a Sunday evening, to preach to his people." Never, surely, were men more mistaken 
than these Christian Observers, in ascribing his want of success, on his first entrance on 
his ministry, to the very means which were not only evidently calculated to ensure it, 
but which, Mr. F. himself, being judge, were productive of that effect. " Last Sunday 
se'nnight, (says he, in a letter to the Rev. G. Whitefield,) captain Scott preached to my 
congregation a sermon, which was more blessed, though preached only on my horseblock, 
than a hundred of those I preach in the pulpit." What did Mr. F. mean here by the 
sermon being blessed? Surely the visible effect it had on the people's minds, both at the 
time it was delivered and afterward. But pray let these gentlemen turn their attention 
to those pious ministers of the church, who take none of the irregular steps, as they term 
them, which Mr. F. took; have they, in general, more fruit of their labours? I trow 
not. No ; not half, and some of them not a tenth part the fruit which Mr. F. had. If it 
would not be invidious, I could refer to individuals. The living, certainly, I must not 
nam© ; the dead, perhaps, I may. Pray what fruit was there of Mr. A.'s faithful labours 
at Wintringham, or of Mr. B.'s, at Ellar-d? Bat of those of Messrs. Grimshau^ 



APPENDIX. 391 

Berridge, and Simpson of Macclesfield, who were all what these gentlemen term irregu- 
lar, there was much fruit. That Mr. F.'s ministry should have great success, at first 
among a people so sunk in ignorance and vice, as the inhabitants of Madeley then were, 
was not to be expected. For this Mr. Gilpin well accounts, in the following words : 
** The voluptuary detested his temperance and self-denial ; the man of pride poured con- 
tempt upon his humility and condescension; the licentious were offended at his gravity and 
strictness ; and the formal were roused to indignation, by that spirit of zeal and devo- 
tion which influenced his whole conversation and conduct. All of these, however they 
might differ among themselves, were leagued together as the inveterate enemies of this 
venerable pastor. They wrested his words, they misrepresented his actions, and cast 
out his name as evil." Thus the enemies of God treated one greater than Mr. F. in the 
days of his flesh. For, as Dr. Doddridge observes, in a passage of his Family Expositor, 
which occurred in our course of reading this morning, vol. i. page 268. octavo ed.) 
"What actions are so fair and lovely, that malice cannot turn them into reproach? 
What characters are so unblemished, what so exemplary, that unckaritableness cannot 
revile and condemn them? While the eyes of distressed multitudes were turned to 
Christ, as their only physician and most valuable friend, the eyes of the Pharisees are 
continually upon him for evil, and they behold even his wondrous miracles, not for their 
own conviction, but that they may, if possible, turn them into the means of his destruc- 
tion. So ineffectual are the most obvious and demonstrative arguments, till divine grace 
conquer men's natural aversion to a Redeemer's kingdom, and captivate their hearts to 
the obedience of faith." Thus Dr. Doddridge. But they forget that Jesus Christ was 
irregular; that he preached in private houses, in public streets, in plains, and on moun- 
tains, and that he sent forth first twelve, and then seventy illiterate men to do the same ! 
" Wisdom," however, as Jesus said, " Is justified of all her children." 

4. Another very great and important step taken by Mr. F. for the good of his parish- 
ioners, but also censured by these Christian Observers, was his writing to them, from 
time to time, as he saw it needful, a kind of pastoral letters. " In general," they 
acknowledge, that " the sentiments expressed in these pastoral letters are truly scrip- 
tural and excellent, and that they breathe a genuine spirit of devotedness to God, an 
ardent love to the souls of his parishioners, and an earnest desire for their spiritual wel- 
fare ; we could with pleasure, (add they) if our limits would permit us, extract many 
useful and animated passages from them. At the same time, (they proceed) we are 
disposed to question the propriety of such letters : nor can we altogether approve of the 
style in which these are written. To us, we confess, they look too much like an as- 
sumption of the apostolical character and authority, particularly as the opening addresses 
to the people are sometimes nearly in the words of St. Paul's introductions to his epis- 
tles." Here I could almost refer to Dr. Doddridge, again and say, "What actions 
cannot uncharitableness misconstrue, and turn into reproach Mr. Fletcher begins 
some of these letters in nearly the language of St Paul or St. Peter, and says in one. 
"Peace be multiplied to you, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ;" in 
another, " This comes with my best wishes, that peace, mercy, and truth may be mui 
tiplied to you, from God the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of his love, with 
which I beg your hearts and minds may be daily more replenished ;" in another, 
" Peace, mercy, faith, hope, and love be multiplied to you all in general, and to each of 
you in particular, frdm the Father of m^rcieSj through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the 
Spirit of grace ;" and again, in another, " Grace and peace, truth and love, be multiplied 
to you all." Now I ask, what impropriety is there in this ! Are not these blessings 
proper to ba desired by a minister for his people, and by a man for his friend ? And why 



392 



APPENDIX. 



may not such desires be expressed in writing, as well as in word? If a minister may. 
with propriety, say to a congregation, before he dismisses them, " The grace of our Lord 
Jeaus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you 
all," why may he not express similar wishes in writing to them, and entreat that " grace, 
mercy, and peace may be with them ?" This was the language of the pious and Reve- 
rend Samuel Rutherford, of Scotland, in almost all his letters, whether to his friends 
individually, or to his people collectively. Similar was the manner in which that man of 
God, and eminent minister of Christ, Mr. Joseph Alleine, begun many of his letters, 
styling also the people to whom he wrote, as Paul did the Philippians, his "dearly 
beloved, and longed for, his joy, and his crown." Ignatius also, and Polycarp, wrote to the 
churches in the same style. And are not all these letters peculiarl) excellent ? Do they 
not contain marks of great wisdom, as well as of great grace ? And is it to be supposed, 
that such wise and holy men were in an error in assuming such language ? Will any 
one take upon him to censure them for it ? Do all who use scriptural expressions, or who 
adopt scriptural phraseology, thereby make themselves apostles? But, add they, 
" There are passages in them (these letters of Mr. F.) which may have tended too much 
to excite a spirit of conceit amongst the poor people to whom they were written." True, 
in some they may have had this tendency, for what blessing is not capable of abuse ? 
But is this the natural tendency of these passages ? Are they not more evidently calcu= 
lated to produce an effect the very reverse ? To beget self-abasement, gratitude, and 
love ? To remove that ignorance, which is the parent of pride, and that vnbelief, which 
alienates the mind from God, and hardens the heart against him, and to excite all that 
read them to zeal and diligence ? I cannot refrain from observing here, that there is 
both more sense and more grace in many among the lower ranks in society, than these 
gentlemen seem to imagine ; and it would be greatly to their advantage to be better 
acquainted with persons of this description. 

5. With regard to Mr. F.'s Checks, and other writings, the Christian Observers speak 
as follows : " Very great praise, as might be expected, is bestowed upon all these con- 
troversial pieces, by Mr. Wesley, and others of his party. We have no hesitation in 
saying, that we believe Mr. Fletcher's motives for writing them to have been pure and 
upright. We also think that, in his manner of conducting the controversy, now happily 
almost forgotten, he had decidedly the advantage of his antagonists. He was an acute 
and animated disputant ; a brilliant imagination rendered his argumentation imposing, 
splendid, and dazzling, while it enabled him to paint the doctrines of his adversaries in the 
darkest and most odious colours ; and whatever may have been the merits of the cause 
which he defended, — into these we do not mean to enter, — he was undoubtedly superior in 
talents and learning to all his opponents." And is this all ? Alas ! with what eyes have 
these Reviewers read these admirable writings, who can see nothing in them but a contro- 
versy now happily forgotten ! An acute and animated disputant, who has the advantage 
of his antagonists ! Argumentation imposing, splendid, and dazzling through a brilliant 
imagination ! A man superior in talents and learning to all his antagonists ! These 
Christian Observers, it seems, have observed no important passages of holy writ illus- 
trated; no essential doctrines of Christianity- proved and established; no grand and 
leading duties to God and man urged and enforced; no destructive errors refuted ; no 
salutary tru'.hs unfolded ; no spiritual privileges exhibited ; no dangers, threatening to 
the spiritual life, exposed and laid open. They have not discerned any tendency in these 
excellent compositions to humble the pride of man, or to exalt the grace and love of God ; 
to check the Antinomian delusion, on the one hand, or the Pharisaic error on the other : 
nor any thing calculated to preserve the church of Christ from a lukewarm and indolent 



I 



APPENDIX. 393 

spirit and conduct ! Hence, they are seriously of opinion, that this whole controversy 
had better be forgotten! Let me tell these gentlemen, Mr. Fletcher's controversial 
writings never will be forgotten, as they never will be answered; but will be read and 
admired by thousands, when the lucubrations of those who make light of them are buried 
in oblivion. "Splendid and dazzling!" No; but solid, substantial, and instructive; 
a model of a Christian temper, as well as of convincing argument. I thank God, my 
readers in general do not thus appreciate the never-to-be"-forgotten labours of the mind 
and pen, any more than those of the heart and tongue, of this blessed servant of the Lord 
Jesus Christ. 

But, add they, " It must in justice be observed, that he certainly was not always a 
correct reasoner." It would be strange indeed, and might go a great way towards 
proving him infallible, if he had always been such, considering the great number of 
volumes which he wrote. But will any of these Reviewers be so obliging as to point out 
to us a few instances of this want of correctness in his reasoning? We are going imme- 
diately to publish a new and correct edition of his works, and if we could plainly discover 
any of these instances, we certainly would take the liberty of expunging them, that they 
might not weaken, in any degree, the force of that reasoning- which is acknowledged to 
be correct and convincing. " And he also gave way, (they proceed) on many occasions, 
to acrimony and intemperance of expression, as well as to an indecorous levity of style, 
ill calculated to promote the cause either of charity or truth." This is asserted, but is it 
proved? No, it is not ; and I am inclined to think it never will be. Let those who affirm 
this, give us chapter and verse ; let them produce the instances on which they ground such 
assertions. As soon as they do this, I, for one, will acknowledge my error, and will own 
that I have had too exalted an idea of the character of my friend. 

Ever}' expression, it should be observed, that is severe, is not a breach of the law of 
love, otherwise we never should have read such advice as the following, from an apostle 
to his son in the Gospel : " Rebuke them sharply, (aa-oTo^a?, with cutting severity, 
says Dr. Doddridge,) that they may be sound in the faith." Nor should we have met 
with such descriptions of persons and characters as we find in many of the epistles of 
Paul, especially those to Timothy and Titus, and in those of James and Jude, and the 
second of Peter. But " in different parts of the volume, (say they) attempts are made to 
exonerate Mr. F. from the above censure, but we do not think with success." This is 
more extraordinary than all the rest. " Attempts made in different parts of the volume !" 
Pray, gentlemen, in ivhat part? for, really, although I compiled the volume, prepared it 
for the press, and corrected the proof sheets of the whole of it, I am ignorant of such 
attempts being made. For my own part, I should almost as soon have thought it neces- 
sary to attempt to exonerate him from the charge of theft, adultery, or murder, as from 
that here specified. Nor can I conceive how they should have imagined such a thing, 
unless it be that they have interpreted in this light the testimonies which in several parts 
of the book, are borne to the amiable spirit in which he wrote and spoke, and to his bene- 
volence and meekness in general. Thus when Dr. Dixon, (p. 163,) speaking of " the 
benevolent doctrines, firmly established" by his Checks, and of " the judgment, clear- 
ness, and precision," with which he wrote, adds, " What crowns the whole, is the 
amiable and Christian temper, which those that will not be convinced, must, however, 
approve, a"nd wish, that their own doctrines may be constantly attended with the same 
spirit :" these gentlemen, perhaps, consider this as an attempt made to exonerate him 
from a charge of acrimony and intemperance of expression. In the same light they may 
probably view Mr. Wesley's declaration, where he says, " One knows not which to 
admire most, the purity of the language, (such as scarce any foreigner wrote before.) 

50 



394 APPENDIX. 

the strength and clearness of the argument, or the mildness and sweetness of spirit that 
breathes throughout the whole." And as to Mr. Gilpin, in his testimony concerning 
Mr. F.'s spirit, they may indeed find many, and yet more striking instances of this kind ; 
as where he declares, (p. 434, 435,) that "lowliness of mind was considered, by the 
generality of his friends, as the most distinguishing trait in the character of this" great 
man :" and that " it may be truly asserted, no person ever conversed with him, either at 
home or abroad, without being struck with the genuine meekness and simplicity of his 
whole carriage. This admirable disposition, which is so lovely in the lowest of its pos- 
sessors, was peculiarly striking in him, in whom it shone forth amid an uncommon variety 
of accomplishments, and attended with a train of excellent graces." Now, if these and 
such like declarations, made by his intimate friends, and such as knew him perfectly, are 
attempts of the kind they mention, then, indeed, many such are to be found in the volume ■ 
but if the reader must and will consider them in a very different point of view, as just 
testimonies borne, by his biographers, to his truly amiable and Christian spirit, I think 
they will not find it easy to prove that any such attempts are seriously made. 

6. The consideration of two or three particulars more shall close these remarks. — 
Speaking of " the premise of the Father," or the gift of the Holy Spirit, including that 
rich blessing of union with the Father and the Son, mentioned John xvii. 21. they ob» 
serve, " Upon this sublime and important subject, much occurs in the course of this 
volume. But though we think, that in the present day it is not sufficiently considered, 
even by religious persons, we are clearly of opinion, that both as to his expectations and 
expressions, relative to the gift of the Holy Spirit, Mr. F. exceeded the boundaries 
which are prescribed to us in Scripture. It appears also, in fact, that he never did ex- 
perience that fulness of manifestation which he seems to have looked for so earnestly, for 
so many years. Indeed, to expect another Pentecost, as Mr. F. evidently did, is, as we 
conceive, wholly unscriptural, and can tend only to spiritual delusion." So far the 
Christian Observer .- and as the subject is of peculiar importance, I must be allowed to 
dwell a little upon it. This is a point which I can speak upon with assurance, having 
very frequently conversed and corresponded with Mr. Fletcher upon it, so that I knew 
his views thereon perfectly. Now the questions are, What did he expect himself ? 
What did he teach others to expect ? And what did he himself experience ? " He ex- 
pected (say the conductors of that miscellany) another Pentecost." In some sen. e he 
did, but not in the sense they imagine. He expected a Fentecost, not literally, but 
figuratively speaking Did he expect cloven or distinct tongues of fire to rest upon, 
him, or the gift of tongues, or that of prophecy so called, or othealing? Did he expect 
to be enabled to raise the dead with a word or a touch ? By no means ; he looked for 
nothing of this kind. He expected only those ordinary operations and graces of the 
Spirit in a full and mature state, which the Holy Scriptures declare to be essential to 
the character of a true and perfect Christian. He expected " the spirit of wisdom and 
revelation, in and by the knowledge of Christ, that the eyes of his understanding being 
enlightened, he might know what was the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the 
glory of his (God's) inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his 
power towards those that believe." He expected that his " faith should grow exceed- 
ingly," that his " love should abound more and more in knovvledge, and in all (cttaS-rtcrstj 
sense and feeling,'''' even the love of God, of his people, and all mankind, " shed abroad 
in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him." He expected to " be filled with joy 
and peace through believing, and to abound in hope by the power of the same Holy 
Ghost." He expected to be stamped with that divine image of God, which he had lost 
by the fall, to be a partaker of a divine nature ; to be sanctified wholly, to "grow up 



APPENDIX. 99$ 

into Christ his living head in all things," and to arrive at the measure of the stature of 
his fulness, being " filled with all the communicable "fulness of God," and "conform- 
ed to the image of his Son." And what he expected himself, he taught others to expect, 
and urged them continually to press to this "mark for the prize of the high calling of 
God in Christ Jesus." 

Now who will take upon him to say that Mr. F. was ill an error in this, and that we 
have no authority from Scripture to look for such things ? But, say these Christian Ob- 
servers, " It appears, in fact, that he never did experience that fulness of manifestation, 
which he seems to have looked for so earnestly for so many years." No ? I think, on the 
contrary, it appears that he did experience it, at least in a very high degree. " As the 
Spirit gave utterance," says Mr. Gilpin, (p. 126,) "he made his requests known 
unto God. There have been seasons of supplication in which he appeared to be car- 
ried out far beyond the ordinary limits of devotion ; when, like his Lord upon the mount, 
while he has continued to pour out his mighty prayer, the fashion of his countenance has 
been changed, and his face has appeared as the face of an angel." Is this one of the 
passages from which these Observers have drawn their conclusion that, in fact, he never 
did experience the fulness of the Spirit which he looked for ? His deepest and most 
sensible communications with God," proceeds Mr. G. " were enjoyed in those hours 
when the door of his closet was shut against human creatures, as well as against human 
cares: here he was privily hidden, as in the presence of God; here he would either 
patiently wait for, or joyfully triumph in the loving-kindness of the Lord ; here he would 
plunge himself into the depths of humiliation ; and from hence, at other seasons, as from 
another Pi sgah, he would take a large survey of the vast inheritance which is reserved 
for the saints ; here he would ratify his solemn engagements to God, &c." Is this pas- 
sage also among the premises from which these gentlemen draw their inference ? 

The friend who gives an account of his marriage, having described his daily practice 
in the family, adds (p. 296, 297,) " Thus did he walk with God, filled with the Spirit of 
his beloved Lord." " Union with Christ," observes Mr. G. " was enjoyed by this emi- 
nent servant of God, in a more than ordinary degree : it was intimate and constant. He 
experienced the fulfilment of that condescending promise, If any man hear my voice, 
and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with /«'m, and he with me. He 
obeyed the summons, and received the promised Visitant ; and from that time his heart 
became the dwelling-place of Christ. There he experienced the teachings of uncreated 
wisdom, and held ineffable communion with the author and finisher of faith, imbibing 
abundantly the Spirit of divine instruction, and sitting under his shadow with great de- 
light. By this sacred intercourse, continued from day to day, his union with Christ be- 
came so entire, that he was at length enabled to adopt the expressive declaration of the 
great apostle, Hive, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." And yet to these Christian 
Observers, who judge, not from any personal acquaintance they ever had with this man 
©f God, nor from any other documents wherewith they have been furnished, but from 
these very pages, " it appears, in fact, that he never did experience that fulness of ma- 
nifestation which he looked for !" 

Mr. G. proceeds in the same page, " The strictness of this union was evinced by his 
whole disposition and carriage. The mind that was in Chri:>t was discovered also in 
him." — " He copied the character of his Lord with so great exactness, that all men took 
knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus. Fellowship with Christ is, with the 
generality of Christians, a state of much uncertainty; but by this holy man it was well 
nigh uninterruptedly enjoyed, through all the different stages of the spiritual life. It was 
his consolation in the season of adversity, and his glory in the day of rejoicing : it sus- 



3Q6 



APPENDIX* 



tained him in the hour of temptation, afforded him peace in the midst of trouble. At 
home or abroad, he was still sitting with Christ Jesus in heavenly places. In sickness or 
in health, he daily conferred with this Physician of inestimable value. In honour or 
dishonour, he still was dignified with the favour of this everlasting King." And is this 
another of the paragraphs in this memoir which support the conclusion drawn by these 
Reviewers ? 

It is true, however, as a friend has observed, who was long in the same house with 
him, and daily observed his whole spirit and conduct, that " in his highest fervours of 
divine love, he always acknowledged that he wanted more." And who does not that has 
any experimental acquaintance with it ? Hence the following language in a letter to 
his parishioners, (p. 231,) " Let not a drop satisfy you ; desire an ocean, at least afoun- 
tain springing up to your comfort in your own souls, and flowing towards all around you, 
in streams of love and delightful instructions, to the consolation of those with whom you 
converse." And (p. 260.) "Till the great outpouring of his love be come, we ought 
faithfully to stir up the gift of God which is in ourselves and others, and to supply, by the 
depth of our humility, and the ardour of our expectation, what is yet wanting to our ex- 
perience." Nay, and even in the latter years of his life, when, as Mr. Gilpin testifies, 
(p. 88,) " his heart was, as it were, a vessel running over with Christian charity," still he 
longed for more. "I sometimes find," said he to Mrs. F. a little before his death, 
" such gleams of light and love, such wafts, as it were, of the heavenly air ! so power- 
ful as if they would just then take my soul with them to glory ! But lam not filled : I 
want to be filled with the fulness of God." But even these his large desires seem to have 
been satisfied before his dissolution; for " when he was in his last illness," says Mrs. F. 
" he expressed himself thus, J am filled, most sweetly filled" " This," adds she, 
" conveyed much to my mind, as I understood by it, the accomplishment of his large de- 
sires." Asa further proof of this, " On Wednesday," proceeds Mrs. F. (p. 370,) " he 
told me he had received such a manifestation of the full meaning of those words, God is 
love, as he should never be able to express. 1 It fills my heart, said he, every moment ; 
O Polly, God is love! Shout ! Shout aloud ! I want a gust of praise to go the ends of the 
earth !' Sally coming in, he cried, 1 Sally, God is love ! Shout both of you ! I want 
to hear you shout his praise !' A few days before his departure," adds she again, 11 he 
was filled with love in an uncommon manner, which he testified as long as he had voice, 
and continued to the end in a most lamb-like patience, in which he smiled over death, 
and set his seal to the glorious truths he had so long preached." So much for the cor- 
rection of the unaccountable error of the Christian Observers, when they say, " It ap- 
pears, in fact, that he never did experience that fulness of manifestation which he looked 
for so earnestly for so many years !" 

7. The following observation contained in this Review, I shall but just notice. " The 
only defect in his character," say they, " is stated by Mr. G. to have been a warmth in 
his temper. This defect Mr. G. endeavours, though not very successfully, to extenuate." 
As to this, it will only be necessary to quote Mr. G.'s words. " The only defect in his 
character," says Mr. G. " which ever fixed the attention even of those (N. B.) who may 
be suspected to have passed by his merits without the regard they deserved, was a certain 
warmth in his temper, which has appeared on a variety of occasions. But with respect 
to this acknowledged warmth, it must be allowed by all, that it was at no time discernible 
in him, except when he was called forth to act either as a, lover of truth, or a reprover of 
sin. In these two characters, indeed, he constantly appeared with a degree of zeal which 
gave offence to many ; but which was entirely consistent with his high reputation fo.r 
n?eekness and charity." Now let the reader judge for himself. 



f 

APPENDIX. 397 

8. It is evident, however, (and this is the last remark I have to make) that in the eyes 
i»f the Christian Observers, Mr. F.'s grand defect was his intimacy with Mr. Wesley and 
the Methodists. " We certainly regret," say they, " that he should have formed so 
•close a connexion with Mr. W. and his followers. We apprehend that this circumstance, 
if it did not produce, at least fostered that tendency to enthusiasm and extravagance, 
which is observable in his character, and which forms its greatest imperfection." Now 
the very circumstance which these gentlemen thus regret as an evil, not fewer, I am per- 
suaded, than a million in the United Kingdom and in America, rejoice in. and praise 
God for, as a blessing, and I dcubt not, will do so to all eternity. His connexion with the 
Rev. Mr. Wesley and his people was the mean, in the hand of God, of bringing him to 
the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and to an experimental acquaintance with 
God, as his God and Father. It is true, it is not impossible but he might have been 
brought to this knowledge by other instruments : but are these Reviewers sure that he 
would ? Be this as it may ; God saw meet to accomplish this work by the instrumenta- 
lity of the Methodists, and yet these Christian Observers regret that he ever knew, or at 
least that he ever formed so close a connexion with the Methodists ? That is, they re- 
gret that he ever knew or was connected with the instruments of his regeneration and sal- 
vation ! Just in this way, I presume, did the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees, among 
the Jews, regret that Saul of Tarsus should ever have been connected with Jesus of 
Nazareth and the Christians. And I have no doubt but they would say of Saul, as these 
gentlemen said of Mr. F. ; that they " apprehended this circumstance," his connexion 
with the Christians, " if it did not produce, at least fostered, that tendency to enthusiasm 
and extravagance, which was observable in his character," Saul being a ivarm, zealous, 
and active man in all the stages of his life, " and which formed," they would say, "his 
greatest imperfection." Now let these Christian Observers speak out, and their language 
will be, that Mr. F. was " righteous overmuch,' 1 '' that he carried religion to excess, and 
that his zeal in the cause of his blessed Redeemer was extravagant and enthusiastic. — 
Hence their cold comment on the following paragraph of one of his letters to the Rev. 
Mr. Charles Wesley, when the latter had proposed that he should receive some pecu- 
niary recompense for his labours. " What ! the labours of my ministry under you de- 
serve a salary ! I who have done nothing but dishonour God hitherto, and am not in a 
condition to do any thing else for the future ! If then I am permitted to stand in the 
courts of the Lord's house, is it not for me to make an acknowledgment rather than to 
receive one ?" This language of Mr. F., which all that ever knew him will say was the 
sincere, genuine expression of his feelings, and the effect, not of enthusiasm and extrava- 
gance, but of real Christian humility, and disinterested love to God and his cause, is 
censured by these Christian Observers as " far from the simplicity and sobriety of the 
Christian character." They should have said from the frigid prudence and wise fore- 
sight of those ministers of religion, whom one of our poets, who is also censured by some 
for similar enthusiasm and extravagance, terms " smooth emollients, in theology, re- 
cumbent virtue's downy Doctors." Surely this way of treating such piety and zeal a3 
?hat of Mr. F. is enough to make one exclaim, in the language of the same poet, 

" Oh ! ye cold-hearted, frozen formalists, 
In such a cause 'tis impious to be calm ! 
Passion is reason, transport temper here. 
Shall heaven, -which gave us ardour, and has shown 
Her own for man so strongly, not disdain 
That prose of piety — a lukewarm zeal ? 
Rise odours sweet from incense uninflamed ! 
Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout; 
.But when it glows, its heat is struck to heaven." 



m m % 

398 APPENDIX. 

No wonder after this, that they should censure Mr. F.'s imprudence, for persisting in 
the performance of his duty the Sunday after he had caught the cold, which brought on 
the fever that terminated his life. But few of our modern divines, it may readily be 
believed, would have taken such a step. They would rather have suffered the doors of 
the parish church to remain shut, and have lain quiet in a snug and warm room. Mr, 
F. however, had too much enthusiasm, or, as some will express it, zeal for this. He had 
imbibed too much of the spinrof him whose portrait he drew, and whose portrait and 
image, in a great degree he was, as well after as before his conversion, to hearken to 
such cold counsels. No such things moved him, "neither counted he his life dear 
unto himself, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry he had received 
of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God." Nay, such was his enthu- 
siasm, that, had he lived in the days of Paul, and been similarly circumstanced, no one 
that knew him can doubt, but he would have been as ready as that apostle was even to 
ct die for the s?.ke of the Lord Jesus." 

This, however, with these Christian Observers, is all enthusiasm and extravagance ! 
And as to Mr. F. they are confident, " had he contented himself with his station as a 
minister of the Church of England, his piety, perhaps, would have been less dazzling, 
(this is the first time that I ever beard of dazzling piety!) but it would (they think) have 
been more scriptural and catholic." Put few of my readers, I believe, will be of their 
minds. Those who were at all acquainted with him and his proceedings, and with the 
state of ihe country at that particular period, too generally lost in ignorance and vice, 
will be cf opinion, that had he pursued the line of conduct laid down for him by these 
gentlemen, and kept himself concealed within the precincts of his parish, he would not 
have been instrumental of doing a tenth part of the good of which, under God, he was 
the author ; nor would his piety have been either so scriptural, or so catholic ; not so 
scriptural, because the Scriptures require the ministers of Christ to " let their light 
shine before men ;" to " go forth, and bear fruit ;" to " go into all the world, and preach 
the Gospel to every creature :" to " go into the streets and lanes of the city, into the high- 
ways and hedges, and compel men to come in ;" to " preach the word, to be instant in 
season and out of season ; to reprove, rebuke, exhort;" to " teach every man, and warn 
every man," tc whom they can have access ; to seek the lost sheep of Christ wherever 
they can find them, in imitation of him who " came into the world to save sinners ;" to 
"seek and save that which was lost." And not so catholic, that is universal, or 
general; for Catholicism, or universal love, certainly requires all, and especially the 
preachers of the Gospel, not to stand aloof from, but to acknowledge all the children of 
God, wherever they find them, even although under reproach, and although they cannot 
acknowledge them without incurring similar reproach. It demands, that they do not 
despise any of these " little ones," these poor and mean disciples of the Redeemer, " that 
believe in him ;" but that they lo^e all " that love our Lord in sincerity ;" and say, in 
his language, " Whosoever doeth the will of my Father, that is in heaven, the same is 
my mother, and sister, and brother." Nay, it requires them to be " merciful, as their 
Father in heaven is merciful," especially to men's souls ; on some to " have compassion, 
and some to save with fear, plucking them out of the fire ;" endeavouring, wherever they 
can have access, to save the souls for which Christ died. 

But they add further, " We regret the connexion to which we have alluded on another 
ground ; on account of its having engaged Mr. F. as a principal in Mr. Wesley's theolo- 
gical controversies. We regret this, without entering at all into the merits of the con- 
troversy, because religious altercation is commonly injurious to the cause of religion, and 
is rarely beneficial to the minds of the disputants, who are too often betrayed into repre- 



f 

APPENDIX. 399 

sentatious as inconsistent with Christian charity, as they are repugnant to the oracles of 
divine truth." — Here again what these Christian Observers regret, multitudes rejoice 
in. For to his close connexion with Mr. Wesley must be ascribed his intimate know- 
ledge of the doctrines and discipline of the Methodists ; of their views and designs ; and 
of the blessed cause their socities were, and still are, labouring to promote. And to 
this knowledge, and not to any influence Mr. Wesley had over him, we owe the various 
controversial writings which he published from time to time in vindication of this people, 
and especially those admirable Checks to Antinomianism, in the perusal of which thou- 
sands have received so much edification. In this way, and in no other; did Mr. F.'s con- 
nexion with Mr. Wesley " engage him as a principal in" some, not in all, " his theologi- 
cal controversies." That connexion did not influence him to defend doctrines which he 
did not approve, or to write on subjects which he did not deem of great consequence. 
These Reviewers, I presume, never read these controversial writings of Mr. Fletcher's ; 
therefore, it seems, that they are not aware in what an important point of view he beheld 
every branch of doctrine he took up his pen to vindicate. The subjects discussed were 
not with him trivial matters, but matters of g reat moment, closely connected, as he 
judged, with the glory of God, and the holiness and happiness, that is, the salvation of 
mankind. He considered them, in general, as " the form of sound words," which must be 
held fast, and as the " faith once delivered unto the saints," which must be earnestly 
contended for. And these his views he received not through faith in the teaching of Mr. 
Wesley, whom he never called Rabbi, or Master, but through faith in the inspired writ- 
ings, which he continually studied with diligence and prayer, and from which he drew 
his whole creed; narrowly observing, however, at the same time, the effects of different 
doctrines on the hearts and minds of those that were taught, and believed them. But 
with these theologians, the whole controversy is a mere " religious altercation, commonly 
injurious to the cause of religion, and rarely beneficial to the minds of the disputants !" 
In this light, Gallio, of old, viewed the matters in debate between Paul and the Jews, 
concerning the Messiahship<and mediation of Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore " cared 
for no such things," believing the whole to be a mere "question of words and names." 
which did not concern him, or, in the language of these Christian Observers, a M reli- 
gious altercation." It was not necessary for these gentlemen to tell us, twice over, that 
they do not enter at all into the merits of the controversy ; for this must be apparent to 
every one who has spent though but a single half hour in the perusal of the works refer- 
red to. But will these gentlemen inform us how they come to term that controversy a 
mere " religious altercation," into the merits of which they have not entered ? And how 
they can reconcile Mr. Fletcher's being engaged so many years in this religious alterca- 
tion, with the character which, after ail, they are compelied by plain and notorious facts 
to give hi;n, as " a man of eminent piety, and exemplary holiness." One question I 
will here beg leave io put to these Christian Observers, — If the controversy carried on 
between Mr. F. and his opponents was only "a religious altercation," what then are 
those which, from time to lime, fill so many pages of their Miscellany ? But I " forbear" 
fo make any further remarks, as they say they " forbear" to proceed in their censures : 
and i heartily join with them in their closing sentence, when they say, " We cannot too 
earnestly recommend, both to clergy and laity, that in these respects {eminciit piety and 
extmplary holiness) they should be followers of him, as he was of Christ." 

JOS. BENSON. 



JYVw Chapel, City- road, London, 
Sept. 28, 180.". 



LIST OF BOOKS. 

THE following BOOKS are published under the patronage and for the use of 
the Methodist Episcopal Church, and to be had of N. Bangs and T. Mason, 
No. 41 John-Street, New- York, superintendents of the Book Business for the 
said Met" 
Circuits. 



Coke's Commentary on the New Testament, 2 vols. 4to -• . #20 

Wesley's Notes on do. 2 vols, in one . 3 

Quarto Bibles 7 

Wesley's Sermons, anew edition, 3 vols, octavo 7 

Wood's Dictionary of the Bible, 2 vols 5 

Fletcher's Checks, 6 vols 5 

Harmer^ Observations, 4 vols, octavo, by Adam Clarke, LL.D. . . 10 
Life of the Rev. Thomas Coke, LL.D. neatly bound and lettered, 

with an engraving „ 2 

Simpson's Plea for Religion, 8vo "' 1 50 

Smith's Lectures on the Sacred Office, 8vo 1 75 

Benson's Life of Fletcher, with an engraving, 8vo 2 

Life of Mrs. Fletcher, with an engraving, 12mo 1 25 

Wesley on Original Sin 1 12§ 

Portraiture of Methodism ^&ti& 1 

Experience of several eminent Methodist Preachers, a new anfl 

enlarged edition 1 

The Experience and Ministerial Labours of several eminent Methodist 

Preachers 1 

The Saints' Everlasting Rest j* 1 

Methodist Hymns, two books bound together 87| 

Experience and Letters of Hester Ann Rogers 75 

Law's Serious Call to a Holy Life 75 

Doctrinal Tracts , 75 

Fletcher's Appeal to Matter of Fact and Common Sense 75 

Introduction to Christianity 75 

Alleme's Alarm, and Baxter's Call, lettered . 62| 

Family Adviser and Primitive Physic, do k t 62^ 

Sellon's Arguments on General Redemption . . 50 

Predestination Examined 50 

Memoirs of Mrs. Mary Cooper 62| 

Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions 50 

Methodist Discipline 37| 

Extract from John Nelson's Journal 37| 

Confessions of James Lackington 25 

Thomas a Kempis, or Christian's Pattern 43f 

Mrs. Rowe's Devout Exercises, abridged 31 J 

A Scriptural Catechism 6| 

Instructions for Children » 6£ 

* A< the profits of the above-mentioned Books are for the benefit of the Metho- 
dist Episcopal Church, and to be applied to religious purposes, it is recom- 
mended "to the Ministers and Members of the Church to promote the sale of 
said-Booke-, and not to purchase any books which we publish, of any other per- 
son than the aforesaid N. Bangs and T. Mason, and the Methodist Ministers 
and Preachers, or such persons as sell them by their consent. 



H 13* &L